Stay-at-Home Mom Licenses Sears Tower Postcards: Lawsuit?

Dear Rich: I am a photographer that mainly specializes in art and portraiture, (okay, I'm MAINLY a stay at home mom). I recently came across a postcard company that wants to make cards and memorabilia of a few of my Chicago vacation images. One of the images is of the Sear's Tower. Is there some kind of property release required for that, or am I okay selling these images to a postcard company? I know you have said that some buildings have trademark protection. Also, I noticed that the Sear's Tower is now the Willis Tower and there is a trademark for and it is listed under Real Estate. The picture in question was taken before that trademark registration, does that matter? I really would appreciate your input on this. I would really love to sell this image but not at the expense of breaking the law. We're back at your statement  -- "Okay I'm MAINLY a stay at home mom." The way you capitalized "mainly" makes us a little sad, like the photography thing is not worthy in some way. The thing is that if somebody buys your postcard, they will know you MAINLY as the photographer who took that picture. Or maybe another way to look at it is like the Jeremy irons/Alfred Stieglitz character told the Joan Allen/Georgia O'Keeffe character in the O'Keeffe biopic, "It's all work until somebody buys it, then it's art."
Right, you had a question. You're fine to sell your image of the Willis (nee Sears) Tower as a postcard. The registration that you mentioned is not for the image of the building -- it is only for the words "Willis Tower" and it is only for use with real estate services. The Dear Rich Staff could find no trademark registration for the image or design of the tower (although a registration is not necessary to claim trademark rights). Ennyway, as we mentioned in a previous post, in order for someone claiming trademark rights in the building design to stop you, the following would have to be true: (1) the building would have to have an identifiable, distinctive appearance; (2) the building would have to be publicly associated with certain goods or services; (3) your use would have to be commercial (not editorial); and (4) your use would have to be linked to an offer or endorsement of similar goods or services.Based on that analysis, you should be good to go.
And speaking of photographs of buildingsCheck this out.

Monday Morning

I love being the only one in my family who can speak French. Foreign languages are secrets that I always want to learn and which, in my family, I never have to share. My parents used to say that French is a beautiful yet useless language, which quickly changed when my dad broke our Europcar in Normandy and only I could communicate with the mechanic.

I'd like to start this week off with Things I'd Like to Wear But Unfortunately, Cannot. I am quite pear-shaped and my hips are going to make childbirth virtually painless. Nevertheless, I can't help hankering over this:
I love the hints of kimono about it, and the folds + stripes are definitely up my alley (I'm a sucker for fabricwork combined with patterns). The silhouette, though the most beautiful thing about this skirt, is my downfall. This design would only accentuate my hips and ultimately, make me look square on the bottom. If you have a boyish body type and are looking to amp things up, this skirt will create curves and work as a go-to piece for the summer.

As a result, it's on to Things I'd Like to Wear and Can, No Matter How Wide my Hips Are. These consist of A-line skirts with spare detail as far from the hips as humanly possible, and this happens to be the perfect candidate:
This skirt still fulfills my desire for pattern (florals!) and fabric detail - plus, I can't go wrong with the abundance of lace and that dusky blue shade. It will subtly draw the eye away from my hips and balance my proportions quite nicely. I can pair it with a pale blouse and white flats for an easy transition to the office, too (to the office! How old am I? No offense).

Have a gorgeous start to your week, my friends!
[photo cred via This Is Glamorous]

Tuckered Out

Whew!  We've had quite the busy weekend and we are all.tuckered.out.  Especially the little one, she had her fill of playtime with the cousins and swimtime and taking her first big strides across the grass time.  She's quite the walker now, yes she is. 

I was busy too, buying a few things at Christie Antique Show.  I'll have to take some pics and share them with you.  How was your weekend?  Hope it was filled with sunshine and loveliness.


And the winner of HandyMan's book, Wine By Design 2nd Edition is......... Tara at the cinnamon post!!!  Congratulations Tara!  Please email me your address at and I will send the book off to you.

Thanks everyone for entering!

Wii Want it All

Dear Rich: If college students who play Wii recreationally wanted to create a blog to share news about Nintendo's Wii console and Wii (software) games with other gamers, wanted to host mini competitions to play other gamers and used the name Wii in the domain (URL) for the blog that would be used for news, promote Wii competitions and collected enrollment fees from teams and sold merchandise to the registered gamers who could track their game scores on the Blog, would this be allowed? First of all, congratulations. You have provided the longest single sentence/question ever submitted to the Dear Rich blog - 82 words. We're going to have to parse it in order to provide the best answer. (1) Yes, a blog to share news about the Wii is fine. (2) Hosting Wii competitions is fine as long as you don't imply that Nintendo endorses the events. (3) Using the word "Wii" in your domain for your blog is a little iffy although you're probably okay, again as long as it's clear that the blog is not Nintendo-endorsed. Others have incorporated Wii into their domains with apparently no problems. But beware. If Nintendo believes you are acting in bad faith, they can go after the domain under domain name rules. (4) Selling merchandise if it has Wii or Nintendo trademarks or logos or Wii-generated artwork is where things start to get decidedly uncool. Nintendo, if it learns about that kind of thing, will have an obligation to protect its trademarks and copyrights. (5) Collecting enrollment fees creates a whole bunch of additional issues from shopping cart security to the age of your customers (we're talking about chronological age not Wii Fit Age). The Dear Rich Staff feels that a better business model is to make participation free and to rely on Wii related advertising (whether Google or otherwise). (Y'now just sayin').

When iconic legos come alive ...

Dear Rich: For the past year or so I have been working on photographs that I am now planning to put into a book. However in some of the photos I quite clearly display products and trademarks and am just wondering about the legal aspect of doing so. An article online referenced a case that Mattel brought against an artist who had used Barbie dolls in what they described as 'unflattering positions.' I should probably add as well that I am in Ireland, so I'm not sure if you would know about the law here although I believe that our trademark law comes from the European Union. I think the attached picture may be a good representation as for me it contains several trademarks: Rizla papers, Golden Virginia tobacco (although you can't see the name), and I wasn't sure if the Lego men themselves would be considered a trademark as they are quite recognisable. Another concern I have about this particular picture is that it has a child's toy engaged in an adult activity. However I realise that this is a separate matter entirely. Thanks for reading our blog in Ireland. We would put a pin in our map except that all our maps are online and we don't want to poke a hole in our monitor. By the way, before we start blabbering on about legal rights, have you seen this short film? We have the feeling that if these talented French artists can get away with this type of logo-exploitation (and win an Academy Award), your work should have no problems. As for your use of Legos, some artists have made a whole career out of those little bricks  without any legal issues arising. So we're feeling good about your use, as well.
European lawThe Dear Rich Staff is not familiar with Irish law although we do have a limited knowledge of the trademark laws that apply to the European Union. For the most part, the same principles apply in the U.S. and Europe, and both sets of laws recognize limited rights for free speech and parody.
Barbie's case. You are correct about the Barbie doll case. Although the artist prevailed, one should also be mindful that the lawsuit lasted for years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mattel has a litigious and slightly cantankerous reputation so as a general rule, it's probably best to avoid placing Barbie in compromising positions.


The Belgians have such a quirky and adorable design instinct. In Bruges last summer, colorful bicycles lined the streets and hot waffles dripping with melted chocolate could be found on every corner. I already feel the onset of cabin fever and cannot wait to explore somewhere new this summer. I've love to go to Greece - my dad wants to rent a yacht to sail through the Mediterranean, but I'd rather stay on dry land to jump off the rocky crags and into the cool water. What are your dream destinations?

Here are some links for your weekend!
- this blogger is living the life that I'd like to have
- I've never been back to the homeland, but my dad was born near here (and I'm now trying to figure out why my grandparents left)
- now this dress would be perfect for work, wouldn't it?
- craving of the moment? This quiche!
- now that my usual shows have had their finales, I'm more than ready to indulge in my fourth guilty pleasure

Have a bright and sparkly weekend, my dears!
P.S. Wonderful news! My new supervisors at the literary agency (my second internship) just sent me a novel and want my opinion on its potential. This is what I'm probably going to be doing for the rest of my life, and that makes me a happy happy girl.

Christie Antiques Show

If you live in southern Ontario, you best head over to the Christie Antiques Show this Saturday. It is THE best antiques show around these parts (Sarah Richardson and many other HGTV personalities have been spotted there) and I wouldn't miss it. So even though HandyMan can't make it, I'll be leaving the baby at grandma's and heading there on my own with a wishlist of items I hope to find like:

Vintage eduational posters

Globes and maps

Old children’s books for framing

Grace Happens

Milk glass or depression glass cake plates

Fishs Eddy

and more old photos (like this one we picked up at the fair last year)

Anything else I should keep my eyes peeled for? What's on your antique wish list?

Toronto bloggers & readers: If you're headed to Christie too, do say hi if you spot me in the crowd :) I'd love to meet you in person (and see what goodies you've picked up!)


A few more days left to enter the book giveaway. Leave a comment on this post for your chance to win!

To be continued - what's a continuation patent?

Dear Rich: There is an invention for a sanitation tube system that will expire this year. However, I found another invention that had been issued three years after the first one which was related to an adaptor to fix the original tube from the same inventor mentioning that this invention is continuation of the earlier patent. Is it legal for me to make a tube based on the first invention? Does the word "continuation" in the second patent mean that I can't touch the first patent unless the second one is expired? Can the invention be issued twice? First, we'll answer your last question. No, an invention cannot be issued twice -- that's known as double patenting and is illegal. And of course, once a patent expires you can make, use, or sell the invention covered by its claims and not worry about getting chased. 
What's a continuation? The Dear Rich Staff went to the always-helpful (and now-legendary) David Pressman, author of Patent It Yourself (insert FTC disclaimer), for some help with your other questions. David explained that a continuation is supposed to replace the parent application. A parent and its continuation are supposed to cover the same invention and generally both do not issue (patent lingo for the official grant of the patent). 
The problem is ... However sometimes the USPTO issues the parent and a continuation. They usually have somewhat different claims and the continuation usually expires the same day as its parent application, so you can make, use, sell the invention covered by its claims with impunity once the continuation expires. A "terminal disclaimer" is supposed to be filed in the continuation so it will not last beyond the expiration of the parent. If this situation occurs, you'll need to consider infringement of the continuation separately from its parent case. That is, one does not affect the other. 
Is this confusing enough for you? We're getting a little light headed here. Summing up (if that's the right phrase), the continuation may have a terminal disclaimer and may or may not cover the same invention as the parent. Both may be invalid for double patenting if a terminal disclaimer was not filed. David advises that since this is such a complicated matter, you might want to have a patent attorney review the patents. Why didn't we just say that in the beginning? We'll ponder that and get back to you.

Vintage Doorbell Hardware

There was one part of our new front door that you probably never paid any attention to. Can you spot it?

See that knob on top? That is a vintage doorbell. It makes the most lovely sound so we wanted to keep it when we replaced the door. The problem is that it is so non-descript that nobody recognizes its a doorbell! It's a cheap plastic knob and plate painted to look like metal and we've been wanting to replace it for a while. We hadn't found any suitable replacements though until our recent
trip to Artefacts in St. Jacobs.

I wish I had taken a Before photo to show the new hardware covered in layers and layers of old peeling white paint
like the old mailbox slot we found. HandyMan has a polishing wheel (seriously, it is the most useful tool!) which he used to strip off all that paint. Beneath it all we found this...

Isn't it pretty? It looks to be cast out of bronze as it has a slight brownish tint. I love how it says "Turn" - there'll be no mistaking that this is a doorbell now!

We debated whether to spraypaint the bronze to match the brushed metal of the other door hardware, but its really hard to get the exact same metal finish. Plus the metal is so darn gorgeous we didn't want to cover it up; its kinda nice having it in its authentic original finish.

And here are my trusty assistants showing you just how nice the doorbell sounds:

Picture Perfect

Don't you love it when the most awful photographers (any one of our respective boyfriends) happen to take the best montages? They capture moments that never seem to appear in the deliberate smiles of a typical photo. Before formal, we found ourselves in a gorgeous hotel suite in downtown Chicago (my friend's boyfriend is from out of town and very, very generous) and insisted on taking pictures with the fireplace (which was lit!).

This is what we look like when we're not giggling about something or other:
See, almost respectable! And now, thanks to this picture, I'm going to go trim my bangs.

Looking for unclaimed royalties for expired patent

Dear Rich: I found the paperwork on my deceased grandfather's invention for stabilizer bars which I believe are standard on many heavy duty construction vehicles, such as backhoes, etc. There is a patent number and lots of drawings and photos of the apparatus in use. The patent was issued in 1977. Do you know if there is a way that I can find out whether there are any unclaimed fees or royalties? Sorry, but you're unlikely to locate any unclaimed royalties for a patent that likely expired in 1994. 
First you need to find the licensees/assignees. You would need to find the companies that licensed the patent from your grandfather. Check your grandfather's estate documents for evidence of those agreements or consult with your grandfather's attorney if that's possible. Alternatively, search patent records at the USPTO or Google patents for evidence of any assignment of the patent. 
Now the hard part ... Even assuming you could track down companies that had licensed or were assigned the patent, you would still face the biggest hurdle: making a legal claim for compensation. What's in your way is the statute of limitations. Under most state laws, you have between 3-10 years (here's a fifty state chart) to file a claim based on a breach of contract. That date starts ticking the day when you should have become aware that the contract was breached. We don't know the details of your grandfather's death or his condition preceding death so it may be possible to make the creative legal argument that it was not possible for you to discover the breach of the agreement until now but the Dear Rich Staff sort of doubts that will fly. In any case, don't listen to us if you have any doubts; promptly take your paperwork to a patent attorney. All in all, we hate to see inventors go uncompensated (if that's the case with your grandfather) but we're not sure there's much you can do.
From our mailbag. Kim from Beverly Hills sent us news today that a case of patent litigation between two magicians has come to an end and the patent holder was victorious. Thanks Kim, we're glad the world is safe for the makers of levitating pens. (And yes, readers, the magic secrets are published for the world to see in the patent applications). Mostly, we're grateful to Kim for getting us to research the subject because it turned us on to this wonderful blog.

Art Not So Smart

Six months to hang a piece of art? That must be a new record around here. But yes, that's how long it has taken us to finally hang up the vintage ship photographs. We came across these 3M Wireback Picture Hangers at Michaels and knew they were just what we were looking for.

We've been hesitant to drive nails into the wall, not only because we may ruin the wallpaper, but because we share the wall with our neighbour and didn't want to find out it was made of 1" of plaster on a concrete wall and a nail could cause it to potentially crumble behind the wallpaper. So, non-wallpaper-ruining 3M strips to the rescue!

We had a really hard time deciding what art to put on the wall in the dining room. A mirror would have been an option, but that would have reflected the kitchen (which can be a mess at times). And while these five photos together may be a bit busy, we love to look at them and wanted them displayed prominently since they had personal meaning.

The tragic ending:
As I was typing this post, boat photo #2 fell down and hit the cap rail!! I don't blame the 3M strip... with the wallpaper having a slight texture, we knew there was the possibility the strip wouldn't adhere well. We did do a test beforehand - put up the strip, let it set for a couple of hours, hung a photo (with a blanket sling & pillows set up underneath in case it did come crashing down), waited 24 hours and hung up the rest - but I guess the wallpaper did us in!

Fortunately, there was only a bit of damage on the backside of the lower corner. The rest of the photos have been taken down... guess we will have to drive those nails into the wall after all! Let's just hope this doesn't take another six months to get done :)


Have you entered HandyMan's book giveaway? Leave a comment for your chance to win!

True Crime Author Needs Truth Meter

Dear RIch: I am a retired college professor and have written a "true crime" book that is about to go to the publisher. 99% of my materials came from actual court and law enforcement documents, live interviews, etc. However, I did get a small amount of information from an inmate's website. This website is copyrighted by the inmate (in his name) and I have his written permission i.e. actual document, notarized, etc. My problem, in my mind, is that I don't know where he got the information that appears on his site. I will, of course, show my documentation as coming from the site with permission. Where, my friend, do I stand? You've done everything you're supposed to do, followed all the rules, and yet somehow, there's this nagging feeling that something could go wrong. We know how you feel. You're in the twilight zone occupied by lawyers and journalists who have first hand information but are unsure whether the first-hander is telling the truth. After all, what good is a copyright assignment or a permission agreement if the person providing it has lied or is using infringing material? So, there are two concerns here: your credibility as an author and your liability as a writer.
Credibility. If the book's credibility hinges on the unverifiable content you got from the inmate, you may need to either seek independent verification (the journalist's approach) or disclaim the veracity of the content (the lawyer's approach). For example, you can state within your book that you have been unable to verify the claims by the inmate and cannot authenticate the content provided. This won't avoid legal liability (and it won't help sell any books) but it does something to preserve your credibility --  that is, you're not trying to pull something over on the public.
Liability. Most publishing agreements require that the author indemnify the publishing company for any third party claims. For example, if the inmate makes an untruthful statement about someone who later sues for defamation; or if the inmate has copied a third party's letters and that third party sues, you would have to pay the publisher's legal costs and damages. At the same time, the disgruntled third party may come after you directly. There are some liability shifting techniques you could try. For example, you could transfer ownership of your book to an LLC or corporation and have that entity enter into the publishing arrangement. That may limit your liability -- that is, prevent someone from going after your home -- but it's not always a guaranteed shield and the publisher may possibly bypass that and demand a personal guarantee. 
Limiting Indemnity. You can also try to tweak the indemnity provision of your contract if you have the bargaining power. 
  • Try to limit indemnity to situations where a lawsuit is filed. That prevents you from having to pay simply because somebody is threatening to file, or merely complaining about something. A more stringent and protective standard would require you to pay only if you lost the legal battle with the third-party. 
  • Attempt to cap the indemnity. This is perhaps the most difficult and controversial modification to make to your indemnification obligation because it limits your liability to a specific amount--for example, you never must pay more than you earned under the agreement.
Some final thoughts ... (1) There's always insurance, and (2) We haven't mentioned this earlier since it seemed inapplicable to your decision. But whenever someone pays for permission they can request promises of authenticity and demand indemnity as well. Of course, that's only as solid as the other party's financial condition -- which is why it probably doesn't apply in your case.
BTW, The Dear Rich Staff votes this as their favorite true crime documentary about an author.

Summer Business

I keep listening to Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea" and imagine sitting on the dock of my Westhampton beach house, my feet all tangled in the seaweed and the sunlight glittering on the bay.

But I have my two internships to speed through until I get there every weekend, and so I've been trying to find ways to punch it up. How? By looking cute. Naturally, I've been haunting Cynthia Rowley and Frock! by Tracy Reese websites to find bright, airy dresses that still qualify as work appropriate. These two picks by Frock! might make the cut:
$275, Frock! $215, Frock!
Yes, they're a little short for work. I manage to rationalize this surprisingly well by assuming that the model is a foot taller than me. But the sweet necklines, intricate fabric detail, and boldly colored patterns just thrill me so much that I'd wear them to work and then to bed. I suppose this shows that "business professional" does not at all translate into my personal fashion language. Plus, there's that whole part where I drooled over Cynthia Rowley's line for Roxy, which the high school part of me would give my right arm for (there is a 100% chance I'm going to blog about it in the near future).

What do you wear to work in the summer (assuming blazers and pantsuits are too warm for the weather)?

Book Giveaway: Wine By Design

See this book? Its about architecture, the architecture of wineries...

...its filled with wonderfully written text and lovely photographs...

...and it was co-written by HandyMan :)

Not only is HandyMan skilled with tools and the occasional bad pun, he is a talented writer and has penned many articles for industry publications and magazines. HandyMan had a book deal well before I met him but it really took our meeting each other to get that book ball rolling, so to speak. He wrote, I found the wineries and assembled material, and over the course of that year, we fell in love.

Its hard to believe, but here we are five years later and the 2nd Edition of that book, Wine By Design, is hitting shelves this week! But lucky you, you won't have to run to your nearest bookstore because I am giving away one copy, signed by HandyMan of course :)

Here's how you can win:
1. Receive one entry for leaving a comment below
2. Receive one entry for becoming a follower & leaving a separate comment to let me know you've done so. If you're already a follower, leave a comment to let me know.
3. Receive one entry if you tweet about the giveaway (make sure to include my twitter name @ramblingreno in your tweet so I can keep track)

And don't forget, leave me your email address or blog address in your comment so I can contact you if you win!

You have until 11:59pm May 30, 2010 to enter. The winner will be randomly drawn from all entries and announced on May 31st.


Bedroom Bunting

The paper bunting from Chloe's birthday party has found a new home.

Chloe loves looking up at the banners when she's lying on the change table... which is good because the girl is a major squirmer these days so I need distractions galore!

HandyMan:  "When we're done with the banner, we can donate it to charity"
Wanderluster:  "Okay"
HandyMan:  "It'll be Good Will Bunting"


Monday Morning

How do I know summer is here? I hope out of the shower and immediately start sweating in my non-air-conditioned sorority house. I have three weeks, no fan, and eighty degree weather to endure until I go home. Plus three papers and two final exams. Can I do this? Can I?! Why am I even still at school? Why do I go to Northwestern? Why don't I just drop out and walk around Europe, like this guy?
Because my parents have me on a money string and they can reel it in. Womp womp.

I haven't bought a new bag in about ten months (this might be a rough estimate - a very very rough estimate), which means it's about time to buy a new bag. Isn't this so perfect for the summer?
The cream and tan are a fresh spin on a classic for the season, and the enormous bow brings it up to speed. I can't remember the last time I saw a cute white bag, much less with another overlooked neutral such as tan. Plus, oversized bows are less girlish than dainty ones, and the stripes on this just make it so cheeky. This will now make the cut from my want list to my need list (like everything else..).

Hope your week is off to a beautiful start!

[photo cred to SullyT64]

Friday Fun


What are you up to this weekend? I'm kicking things off with my sorority's spring formal, which is at the Stan Mansion in downtown Chicago (doesn't it look absolutely breathtaking?). Then, my weekend will slowly devolve into hours upon hours of the homework that I've been ignoring since my boyfriend first got here.
One of my roommate's best friends passed away yesterday. She'd been strong and always healthy, but a blood clot in her leg traveled to her heart. I don't know how to console my roommate - I've bought her Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and chips with guacamole, but food only does so much (for her, at least). Do you have any thoughtful ideas as to how I can cheer her up and make these next few weeks a little easier for her?
Here are some links for your weekend!

- I'll never be too grown-up for this youthful and happily chaotic Diesel ad campaign.
- rush hour in Amsterdam turns a bicycle from a want into a need.
- the lovechild of Pandora and a mood ring? Awesome.
- I'm aching to bake a large batch of these and dip them in some espresso.
- maybe it's because I grew up watching Golden Girls reruns, but Betty White is my hero.

Have a beautiful, relaxing weekend!

On The Run

And FINALLY the carpet runner is in. I say finally because its taken a year and a half to get this thing... we shopped around, we purchased, we waited, the place we purchased from went bankrupt, we waited for our refund, we shopped some more, we finally found it AGAIN at the new place that bought all of the old bankrupt place's inventory, we bought, we waited some more, and its in!!

Which is a good thing because this little one is getting pretty good at clambering up those stairs! Baby gates are going in this weekend so enjoy them in their unblemished state while you can.

Gone Crafting: CDs as clock faces

Dear Rich: I have been trying to come up with some craft ideas to make and sell. I thought about using CDs or DVDs as clocks by adding the mechanisms and putting numbers on the faces of them. Is this illegal? Can I get in trouble for copyright infringement? No, you won't get in trouble if you're using existing CDs. As we discussed in another post, lawyers may argue as to whether the first sale doctrine covers this repurposing -- is it a derivative work? -- but we feel your CD clocks will go unhassled. You might run into problems if you were to print a celebrity's image on the CD yourself and then sell the CD. (Of course, like everything else in life, there are videos and how-to websites explaining the CD-to-clock process.) 
Speaking of craft artists, it's time to drag out the FTC disclaimers because another one of our books just dropped. That's right, more words, more paper, and even an unrecyclable plastic disk. If we weren't so obsessed with getting higher Bookscan numbers, we'd be drowning in environmental self-hate. Well, maybe, we'll figure out XML, learn ePub basics and solve that issue someday. And for you crafters with an iPod, check out our podcast on the subject.
Hey and speaking of tireless self-promotion. The Dear Rich Staff recently played on a new album by one of our favorite performers

Heaven in a Hammock

Doesn't this look like the most delicious spot to read a David Sedaris essay, drink some fresh squeezed lemonade, and while away the afternoon? I love hammocks so much more than benches and lounge chairs, and this one by Anthropologie is no exception. The exotic colors and scallop fringe look so perfect to nestle in on a pretty afternoon, with nothing to listen to except the breeze. Is there anything more perfect than the lovechild of a swing and a bed?

Can we use a Disney dress in indy flick?

Dear Rich: I made a low low budget indie feature film (not completed yet). In the film, a girl wears a Disney princess dress a lot. My costume person erased the princess's face from the buttons, but didn't change anything else. Even if this dress isn't as well known as the Snow White dress, Disney people (and kids who love princesses) could perhaps tell that this is a dress purchased at a Disney store. Will I have to get a permission to use the dress, or, can I still use it without contacting Disney because the princess face is erased?  The short answer is that if the only connection to Disney is the dress, you're probably okay. Despite valiant attempts by the fashion industry to achieve protection, clothing (a useful object) isn't protected under copyright law. However, a costume -- for example, the Batman rig -- may be protected under copyright and trademark law because it has a sufficiently unique combination of decorative elements, or it directly conjures up the copyrighted character.  
Not likely to be an issue for you. But if the only use in the movie is as wardrobe for a character with no connection to Disney, it shouldn't be an issue. Removing the buttons was a good idea and should demonstrate your good faith in avoiding any connection with Disney (unless someone takes the cock-eyed view that you're removing copyright and trademark notices!). The only other potential for problem would be if you had entered into some license agreement, for example, if you bought directly from Disney and they made you use a click-through agreement that prohibits displaying the dress in commercial motion pictures ... a legal theory which sounds remarkably far-fetched as we write it.
Also, we're confused. We've been googling Princess dress ads (please Google, don't track that in our search history) and we can't tell for sure whether "Princess" refers to a line/brand of Disney dresses or to a specific princess/character? For example, the dress shown above is billed as "Disney Princess Role-Play Dress" but it has a picture of Sleeping Beauty on the tag, (so what is the role being "played"?). If the reference is to a line of dresses, the Dear Rich Staff believes that wearing one is probably even less of an issue for your movie. 

Breton Extravaganza

(Meg Ryan as Kate in French Kiss)

First, you dear wonderful lovely people, thank you so much for all of your comments. When I read them, a lot of blushing and bright smiles slip into my day no matter how hell-bent Chicago is on keeping the weather at a chilly and grey 55 degrees. I usually make a bad habit of starting a project, working religiously on it, and then abandoning it shortly afterwards with a declaration that "I'll never be a writer/watercolorist/personal shopper for my older brother/pianist/seamstress/professional Food Network chef à la Giada DeLaurentiis!" But you keep me so inspired that I'll probably never quit this and for that, thank you!

I'm so into Breton stripes, which first captured my heart with Meg Ryan's role in French Kiss. Yet the classic styles (skinny-striped, black-and-white) rub me the wrong way. Naturally, I've taken it upon myself to hunt down a few options that add some oomph to the nautical staple without going overboard (pun so intended). Whether it be a dolman cut, a luxurious material, a shot of grey, sleek necklines, or variation in the stripes, any update brings it away from the coastline and into the city. Or, in my case, a college campus. I've compiled a list of styles that I would own in a heartbeat if I could; I know I just have a huge thing for worn denim shorts, but wouldn't these look awesome with worn denim shorts and canvas sneakers (I'm thinking bright Keds or these Bensimon)? Or maybe slim dark jeans and last week's wedges?

(from top to bottom)
Vince Breton Stripe Tee, Nordstrom, $195
DKNY Striped Stretch Silk Tunic, Saks Fifth Avenue, $145
Vince Striped Cashmere-blend Sweater, Bloomingdales, $142
Aqua Striped Cotton Boatneck Sweater, Bloomingdales, $68
Tory Burch Bernadette Striped Top, Saks Fifth Avenue, $195

The Basement: Layout Options

HandyMan and I have been sketching out ideas for the basement layout for weeks now and we've come up with some interesting options. Here's what the space looks like currently:

When we first started thinking about the space, we focused on our top priorities: more counterspace in the laundry room, and creating a pantry. In this option below, we shifted things around in the laundry room (which is currently too big) and made room for more storage closets and a nice big u-shaped pantry room. HandyMan likes niches and alcoves so he placed the pantry in such a way that it created a little niche for a workstation on the other side of the wall of the furnace. Niches like this really maximize the use of the space and create nice clean lines in the layout. He made use of another small niche (to the left of the laundry room door) to put a storage closet for detergents and such.

Building on this first option, we thought - what if we move the hot water tank to the laundry room so that all the ugly but necessary mechanical stuff gets put in one room? And what about creating a separate, more contained work area in the rec room?

Hmm, its not really working is it. The pantry seems to be floating in space. Then we thought - what if we change the entry... make the work area more of a pass-through hallway type of layout?

Okay, that plan is a little better looking. But now the pantry room has completely disappeared! Time for some radical thinking... what if we moved the laundry to the current kitchenette area? This would leave room for a really big pantry/storage room. And we could have a small-ish work/crafting room with a lower kid-sized table beside it.

I'm liking where this is going... but still not quite there. More radical thinking required! What if we stripped the laundry room down to the bare bones and created a small but functional space? And moving the placement of the pantry room... does this help?

Not really. While the bottom half of the layout seems nice and open, the top is a jumble of rooms and doorways. At this point, we took a step back and had a few "lightbulb" moments which helped us create the more streamlined plan below:

First, we decided that the pantry could be an unfinished space, meaning it could just be a bunch of shelves and brackets. It didn't even need to be drywalled or have a finished ceiling. With that in mind, we then thought - well, why don't we put the ugly hot water tank and furnace in the pantry room them? Doing this then created the opportunity for a more streamlined, rectangular shaped laundry room. That meant we could have nice long runs of countertop along the walls!

Another lightbulb moment came when we thought - why don't we change the storage niche that was to the left of the laundry room door and instead move it outside of the laundry room and change it to display space? Then we could create a nice little circulation space - display shelves on the left, laundry door in front, pantry door on the right, and a nice potlight overhead? Having the doors all in one zone makes sense and having visible open shelves creates some interest and texture.

Sweet! Can you see how those few changes has led to a more pleasant, logical and efficient plan? Architects call those lightbulb moments "unlocking the plan". I call it just plain awesome :)

So here's the final plan (I think). I'll be sharing the 3D model HandyMan created in SketchUp so you'll get a better idea of what this plan really feels like.