Monday, 20 February 2012

Copycats



I've been hesitating a little over publishing this post, but then I thought 'well why the hell not', it's not me in the wrong here!!

You might wonder what I am talking about... well a couple of months ago, just before Christmas actually, I was randomly searching on the Internet for something  (anchor print fabric I seem to remember) when I came across some images of some beach hut hangers that literally made me gasp and do a complete double take...


Look familiar?????


Yes, I thought so too... I could hardly believe my eyes... Practically identical to my beach hut lavender bags! A quick search on Google and I could see this wasn't just some home crafter being a little too 'inspired'. 

©Jenny Arnott

I managed to find out the name of the company who are selling them, which is a large gift wholesaler here in the UK, but with manufacturing overseas I think. They have a huge range, and a massive customer base from what I can see - they exhibit at lots of trade shows throughout the year, so if you attend these sort of events, you may well have seen them or even bought from them.

I don't know whether they design in house or buy artwork from freelancers, but wherever they got the idea, in my eyes it is very clearly mine. I have been selling my beach hut lavender bags since 2010 and have lots of evidence to back this up, including sales of the items, as well as dated picture uploads on this blog, and places like facebook etc. 

I do actually have an example of their knock off product and their version is a cheap, rubbishy copy, obviously made in some factory somewhere. It retails for less than half of what mine does but boy does it show! Plus their product photography is awful.

Now I'm not claiming to have invented beach hut lavender bags at all. There are many, many examples if you look around the Internet, I certainly wasn't the first to make them. But what makes mine different from the rest are the fabrics I've chosen, the shape and the details such as the bunting, door number and knocker, the life ring on the roof... basically all the separate elements which make up the design and the way I put them together. I felt so angry and upset when I first found out... I mean how lazy and unethical do they have to be?! They have used practically every single element of my design (bar the fact that theirs have no lavender in them.) 

I immediately contacted the company directly, basically asking them to stop selling/making the product at once. They  agreed there were 'some similarities' (some???) between our products but agreed without putting up a fight to remove their beach huts from sale. It is difficult to know for sure whether they have kept their word. I know they have removed it from their trade website at least, and I have people on my side who were keeping an eye out for me at Spring Fair to make sure they weren't exhibiting with it.

However, they did not accept liability for copying. To be honest, I didn't push it further at the time. It was Christmas, and I was just glad they agreed to remove them from sale. To pursue the legal route would take money I don't have, and I don't think I could handle the stress anyway! Plus, you only have to change a few minute details on a design for it to be classed as a 'new design' anyway so they may have changed just enough to get away with it in the eyes of a court, even though it is quite clearly 'heavily inspired' by my work.

I'm not really sure why I am writing this post now, as technically it is done and dusted now... except it still keeps niggling away at the back of my brain. It's just frustrating that as a small business, it is difficult to come up against the big boys and they just get away with it. That's probably what they count on when ripping off other people's designs. That they know nothing will really happen. If they get found out, they just stop using the design, and probably move onto someone else. They've probably done it many times over.

Copying unfortunately does go on all the time in the design world... every time I log on to facebook there are always pages stealing other people's images and designs. Inspiration is fine - we are all 'inspired', consciously or unconsciously, every day by the things we see around us, especially with the Internet making everything so accessible these days. Plus there are only so many ideas out there - you would be hard pressed to find something so new and innovative that it is truly 'original'. But there is a  definite line between being inspired and just direct copying. And it's obviously not just small scale crafters to blame. I have read so many awful stories in the last few months about big, supposedly reputable companies who have used other artists' work and designs, it is really shocking how widespread the problem is.
 
So anyway if I could ask you all to keep an eye out for these hangers when you are out and about in the next few months, I would be really grateful. If you can let me know if you see any anywhere that would be appreciated. Little boutiques and gift shops are where they are most likely to be found. Hopefully though they have kept their word and are no longer selling them.

Anyway, thanks for reading, will be back soon with a more 'normal' post xxx

p.s My cushion giveaway is still open - I might have to close it early due to the huge volume of entries I've had on my blog/facebook page, so make sure you enter before it is too late! x

27 comments:

The Krafty Cupcake said...

Those copies are incredibly naff! Good for you standing up to them! The thing is people recognise where these designs come from and it can reflect back on the original designer. Your work is fantastic and to have such rubbishy copies on the market (hopefully now removed) is so wrong. Although who would by them as they are so 'flat'. Sue x

Shazronnie said...

Yours are so much more beautiful! Well done for standing up for yourself xx

fee @ chipper nelly said...

Ggggrrrrrrrr.....
fee x

Pipany said...

Oh it's just so frustrating Jenny and becoming more of an issue daily it seems. Yours are so obviously better in every way, but that isn't the point is it? Wish I had some answers but I think blogging and FB-ing (is that a word???) about it makes it less likely people will want to steal as they know you will 'out' them! xx

Helen Philipps said...

Oh Jenny Poor you...What a shock it must have given you seeing those beach huts just like yours. (Though not nearly so well made). When you create something, it is so familiar to you and therefore it seems so invasive when someone steals it and claims it as theirs. It has happened to me a few times over the years and for many designers it is made worse now because of the internet.
Glad you have sorted this one out, anyway, well done on dealing with it (not something we creative types like to have to do, is it??) I will keep a look out for those copies on my many shopping trips.
Sending you hugs and wishing you a happy week.
Helen x

Bonnie Blackbird said...

One thing though Jenny - at least your's are WAY better! I for one will def keep my eyes peeled and be sure to let you know should i see any about. I hope they keep to their word and stopped selling them completely. Hope you are ok xx

Sconch Textiles said...

Good on you for taking them on - it says a lot that they immediately took them down!

What I find really refreshing about your post is your view on copying. You saw this as copying because of all the individual parts that make up your design - and absolutely rightly. You make it clear that you are not claiming the idea of a lavender bag is yours!

However, along with the huge amount of copying going on on Facebook etc, there also seems to be an awful lot of people springing up unfairly accusing others of copying, claiming that the particular design is theirs. To the extent that people are claiming the idea of a 'lavender heart' or a 'draught excluder' is theirs...I've seen a lot of bullying going on recently!

PS your lavender bags are gorgeous :)

Rosa Lily (Pen) said...

People only "copy" because they dont have an idea in their head, and also to make a quick buck as they can see a best seller so therefore make it their own :( It's sad for the artisans who work their socks off and then come up against this sort of thing. I wrote a Christmas short story last year and was going to put in on my blog but then I thought anyone can use these words and call it theirs, so I didnt, it's horrid when you have to think like that. Anyway Jenny anyone can see that your work is far superior and of course I will keep an eye on the internet for bad copies :)

Dinki Dots said...

That is so awful!! I'll definitely keep an eye out for any on sale. You can clearly see that they are not even a quarter as well-made as yours are!!!
Maria x

Stephanie Cant said...

As of late, there have been a lot of copying claims that IMHO were false. Much drama usually ensues and hundreds of women, that had nothing to do with it, are dragged into the s*itstorm because some woman has anger-management issues and insists that she was copied.

This is NOT the case here. This is one that is 100% copying and EXACTLY the same. I applaud you for handling it well and contacting the company directly instead of posting some drama-causing post on Facebook, Twitter, etc.. THIS is how a crafter should handle their copycat issues... with CLASS.

Mary Janes TEAROOM said...

Oh dear Jenny...There is no doubt here that this is blatant copying right down to the smallest details...Large companies searching through the work of successful independent crafters to then reproduce items themselves on a large scale seems to be a regular thing now...but the internet has become a very small world and they always get found out wherever they are selling....too many people know you and your beautiful work now...I think as time goes by they will all become aware of this fact.
Just looked at the last pic Jenny and you can't ever reproduce such handmade loveliness...Copycats always produce the poorest of imitations because there is no heart in their work (and no lavender?...Ooh, sums it up!)
Take care and have a good week,
Susan x

Jooles said...

Oh Jenny...how awful.
It is just disgraceful and as you say they are almost identical in design but very obviously not in quality.
well done for getting onto them.
I have had a little experience of this too,not as bad as this though, it just rips your heart out the moment you see it.
I will of course be keeping my beady eyes open for you x
have a lovely week x
love jooles x

Kandi said...

Yeah this sort of thing really gets my goat!
I am at a few crafting and stitching shows this year, I will keep my eyes peeled for you.
It's even more frustrating that it's so difficult to protect your own work, but lets be honest the sort of people that buy your stuff would not be interested in the cheap, shabby copies anyway, we have good taste ;0)
Kandi x

Helen said...

Oh that is terrible and yes, a complete rip off your item. It's horrible isn't it when it happens. I fully understand that other people's art and creations are inspiring, but to blatantly rip off a design, which really has been done to you, is awful.

I had a similar experience with ebay. I used to sell my flower photographs on there and then in the end too many people just copied my design....the pictures looked identical expect theirs were not as bright as mine and they sold them for less.

But we mustn't let it stop us from creating wonderful things....and coming up with new ideas.

I shall also keep an eye out too1

greenrabbitdesigns said...

This is disgraceful Jenny. The design is obviously copied but the quality is poor, however that is no consolation to you!!
This isn't the first I've heard of this and no doubt it goes on all the time. Well done you for tackling them about and hopefully they have stopped but sadly probably have moved on to someone elses designs.
I will certainly keep an eye for them and will let you know if I see any.
V x

Bee happy said...

Can't believe the cheek of some people! well done you for ringing them up, proud of you :) Will keep an eye out an let you know if I see them for sale other than with yourself, hope you have a wonderful week sweetie.

Bee happy x
Have a delicious day!

Artwork By Angie said...

Grrr, that's so blatently 'Inspired' by you - as you say, how lazy to be so obvious with the design details. It makes me cross because as you say, it takes time and money to fight it. I don't know whether this helps but I have a little list of useful sites just incase I ever need to use them. I'll pass them on to you now as they may help lead you to a bit of justice:

Designers & Illustrators Against Plagiarism on Fb:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Designers-and-Illustrators-Against-Plagiarism/190313407647321?sk=wall

ACID (Anti Copying In Design):
http://acid.eu.com/

I'm a member of the Federation of Small Business. Membership costs about £100 per year, but offers you heavily reduced legal representation and business insurances...and also access to a wealth of helpful information: http://www.fsb.org.uk/

You may have already looked into these, but it doesn't hurt for me to pass them on. You can always take legal action in retrospect - so maybe one day, when you're in a better position to fight, you'll get justice. I sincerely hope you do as those designs are clearly yours! :-)

Meanwhile, I'll keep my eyes peeled for them and will let you know.

Best wishes, Angie xx

Tugba said...

Grr, this angers me! It's hard enough for small businesses to make a living without large companies shamelessly ripping them off! I feel like big companies think they can do this and get away with it, as smaller companies don't have money to throw away on legal action and they know this!

It's great that you confronted them about it and they have promised not to sell them anymore. I would still definitely keep an eye out though. If they are unethical enough to copy your work, they are unethical enough to lie!

In the meantime, just keep doing what you do best :)

Cajame said...

Gosh - they are identical aren't they? And thinking about it, I'm sure I've seen them for sale.

These companies carry on regardless, knowing the costs of any legal fight will stop the "littlies" doing anything about it.

Grrrrrr.

LesBijouxDeClaire said...

Well done Jenny on handling this so professionally! It's so sad that this is happening more and more. Big companies seem to feel that design copyright means very little if your stealing from a small business or crafts person. I hope other crafters going through the same issues read your post & use it as a guide on how to deal with copyright issues.
Claire x

LissyLou said...

oh dear, sorry to hear that. i can't believe they have made them so similar!!!

millefeuilles said...

Dear Jenny,

I am so truly sorry you had to go through this. It's made even worse by the fact as you so well put it that you are a small blooming company and they are a big bully venture. There is a fine line between being inspired and copying: they overstepped the line with huge, ugly boots.

Stephanie

Muddy Puddle Crafts said...

Thank you for sharing this with us Jenny, I'm not surprised its bugging you grrrr. Well done for standing them but hold your head high as you were the first, the original & the far more talented! will keep my eyes peeled x

Anna said...

awww Jenny, well done for standing up for yourself. I would be really upset too if I were you. As you say we all take influences and inspiration from others but this is sooooo obviously a direct copy. It's a disgrace.
I have had similar happen to me (but no way on a big scale like this)at fairs....someone copying my designs but making out it was ME copying them.....and even copied me when I got little rotating mirrors on my stall to display my work!!!! The bare faced gall of some people never ceases to amaze me.
Anna x

my4lilgirls said...

Whoa thats pretty shocking, I'm amazed you are so good about it, not taking it further & all.
Hey just shows how fab your work is though that they even TRIED to copy it.
Have a great week
lol Karen x

Ann said...

Wow no wonder you are so upset and angry. We all would be too. Good on you for contacting the company, and I wish you success.

Annie xx TheFeltFairy said...

Bloody hell, they are a real rip off of your design! Mind you they were so quick to 'remove' them that it makes you wonder if they already knew! Cheeky devils x

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