In general, you need to be very careful with all but the most generic
sorts of designs. Anything that is clearly recognizable as a
*Microsoft* mouse or a *Campbells* can of soup is likely protected by
some sort of intellectual property rights.
Before going into detail, though, please note the disclaimer at the
bottom of the page. Google Answers is not a substitute for
professional legal advice, so take everything here with the
appropriate grains of salt.
Your question asked about copyright, and a commenter, below, added a
caution about trademark protection as well. Both of these things are
certainly important considerations.
Your real concern with physical objects is more likely to be patent
Although most of the focus on patents has to do with protecting new
inventions, there is a category of patents known as design patents
that protect (surprise!) object designs.
From the US Patent and Trademark Office website:
What is the difference between a utility patent and a design patent?
A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any
new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, compositions
of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof. A design patent may
be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental
design for an article of manufacture...
In the absence of specific information to the contrary, you would do
well to assume that a characteristic ornamental design of an object is
covered by patent protection, and that you would need explicit
permission to duplicate it.
For instance, here is the design patent link for one (of many) design
patents held by Microsoft for a computer mouse:
United States Patent D464,651
Kerestegian October 22, 2002
Claims -- The ornamental design for an electronic mouse, as shown and described.
Inventors: Kerestegian; Stiven (Seattle, WA)
Assignee: Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, WA)
Do you really want to go copying the mouse design and run the risk of
infringing on Microsoft's patents?
Along with design patents, products can also be protected to varying
degrees by both federal and state intellectual property laws covering
copyright and trademark, and also by more general laws involving fair
So...I'm afraid you'll either have to make your objects very generic
in appearance, or seek out specific licenses from the companies who
designed the products in question.
I hope that covers the territory adequately for your needs.
But if there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know by
posting a Request for Clarification.
Best of luck in your ventures,
search strategy -- Searched the USPTO website for [ microsoft computer mouse ]