I was watching YOU (Netflix Original) and during the show, it shows a lot of chat bubbles, I was wondering if they had to create a brand new chat bubble for the show or if they can reuse a known format, let me explain through examples:


Facebook Messenger Properties:

  • Font X
  • Border Radius X
  • Padding X
  • Color X
  • No tip

enter image description here

Instagram Chat Properties:

  • Font Y
  • Border Radius Y
  • Padding Y
  • Color Y
  • No tip

enter image description here

WhatsApp Properties:

  • Font Z
  • Border Radius Z
  • Padding Z
  • Color Z
  • Right-top tip

enter image description here


Now... let's say I'm Netflix and I'm designing my TV Show, and it will have these chats bubbles. Can I use the same properties from Facebook Messenger for example?

Or do I have to change something so it does not get caught by a design patent/register/ownership?

enter image description here "You" Tv Show screenshot

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a legal question. Sorry about that. Also note that laws differ around the world. Probably best to ask a lawyer at your location. Thanks. – Billy Kerr Jan 10 '20 at 16:46
  • @BillyKerr but there is a specific tag called "legal" in graphic design stack. I thought asking this here would make sense. And if one could answer about the laws they know about, is fine. And, I asked about patents as well, patents can be obtained worldwide, so maybe one could answer this more generally speaking. – RA828 Jan 10 '20 at 16:49
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    There's a Law Stack Exchange which is better for legal questions. You can flag your own question and ask a mod to migrate it for you if you want. – Billy Kerr Jan 10 '20 at 17:04
  • But this "legal" tag explicitly says "Questions about copyright, licensing and ownership. For questions about who has what rights over digital images in the media and public domain." My question is about licensing/patenting webdesign properties to create a unique visual. I am curious if one could do this or not. It is not for me or a specific personal case. It is just a general curiosity. – RA828 Jan 10 '20 at 17:11
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    I agree this is ontopic, i also agree you get better review ion legal. However, i would like to point out that existence of a tag and having description does not guarantee on-topicnes and shouldnt be argued. – joojaa Jan 10 '20 at 18:22

"Copyright" depends greatly on where a company is based and laws in any particular region. Whether or not something can be copyrighted depends greatly upon where the copyright is being filed. In the US, generally you can copyright how something is presented or displayed. However, simply because something is copyrighted in the US, that does not mean any other country has the same copyright laws and will honor the US copyright. In terms of a web site, typically it's specific visual aspects and content which is copyrighted and not the "web site" as a whole.

I do not know specifically, but it's possible that Facebook, Apple et. al. has copyrighted the specific appearance of their chat bubbles.

You can trademark what is referred to as "trade dress". This is the basic appearance of a brand as seen by the public and can include colors and general descriptions of visual elements. This is done to prevent a company from "piggybacking" on another company's success.

To use an example, UPS has trademarked their brown color for trucks, uniforms, and other items. So, a new package delivery service, let's call it DeliveryX, can't use brown trucks and brown uniformed drivers to deliver things. If DeliveryX does use brown trucks and uniforms, they are specifically confusing consumers as to who they are and using the brand recognition of UPS to imply their own brand is the same or similar. They are essentially "stealing trust" from the consumer.

Be aware trademarks are not the same as a copyrights. Trademarks don't give ownership over anything, where as copyrights do. Trademarks simply serve as a notice to other business that "we use this, don't try and use it yourself". Lawsuits can derive from trademark disputes. Apple has taken Samsung to court countless times (and vice versa) for what Apple feels is a violation of their trade dress trademarks - as in "look and feel" of Apple's products.

To this end... if a filmmaker wishes to avoid any such issues, the simplest thing to do is create your own. That way there's no chance someone is going to get the idea you are trying to "piggyback" on their trade dress.

When you look at things like a UI or chat bubbles, their appearance is generally specific to a given platform. Therefor if a film maker used the bubbles from any platform, there's the possibility the platform could complain. When you consider these platform are multi-billion dollar companies with massive legal teams, who would want to run that risk? So.. they create their own.

Another possibility is visual continuity. Some films just look worse if you use big blue and green bubbles on screen or something similar. So they may have created their own just to maintain the visual continuity of the filmed piece.

  • Thank you @Scott for you complete and very informative answer! This is what I was looking for, makes a lot of sense. – RA828 Jan 10 '20 at 20:49
  • Copyright pretty much clones itself to most countries due to brene convention. – joojaa Jan 10 '20 at 21:19
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    @joojaa tell that to China :) – Scott Jan 10 '20 at 21:20
  • @Scott tbh USA ignored copyright untill it was biggeest producer and then force fed it on us. So id say china i doing it right. – joojaa Jan 11 '20 at 6:13

You can not patent graphic design generally. What you get instead is copyright. While i would like to say that copyright and patent right are mutually exclusive that's not entirely true, though it is broadly speaking true.

There is also a middle ground in some jurisdictions that is a "design patent", which has different names in different countries. This form is meant for those fields that can neither get a true patent or copyright like industrial designers. This essentially has the coverage of copyright but with a time allotment of a short patent and all the cost overhead of patenting. In USA this patent can cover computer icons for example. However, none of those can be patented as they do not differ too much form mainstream.

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