L. Batlin & Son, Inc. v. Snyder

536 F.2d 486 (2d Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 857 (1976)

Hover over the image to see how similar the original 1886 bank was with Snyder's 1975 copy.

For many people, collecting mechanical banks is a hobby, sometimes a very expensive one. Certain banks have been sold at auction for over $90,000. Mechanical banks achieved great popularity in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century, and as a result, they reflect the technology, current events and politics of the day. However, crude racial stereotypes were also a common subject.

The Uncle Sam bank was one of the most popular designs of its time, and many original specimens still survive.

See the image to the left to compare the banks at issue in this case. The court ruled that Snyder's copy was not sufficiently original to warrant copyright protection. Compare this with the ruling in Alfred Bell & Co. v. Catalda Fine Arts, Inc., where a court found originality in a copy of a work in the public domain.