Copyright.... or why copying is never 'right'

I hope that everyone has had a great September - it has completely whooshed by! It has been a busy and exciting month at Studio Seed HQ with lots of new trade stockists, exciting developments overseas and some new greetings ranges in the pipeline. Unfortunately, September also brought something rather unpleasant - something that (decent) designers everywhere fear. I've been copied. And when I say copied, I mean, really, really, really ripped off right down to the words I use in my product descriptions. I had been wondering whether or not to publish this post because, of course, I want to remain professional at all times - However it's something I feel so strongly about that I really felt the need to share my story.

Personalised Papercut Bauble © Studio Seed

Personalised Papercut Bauble © Studio Seed

If you've ever had a product or design copied, then you'll know exactly what I mean when I say that I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach when I saw the copies of my products advertised for sale by another 'designer'. One of the reasons why I had spent a lot of time over the past year refining and upgrading this product was so that I could avoid this by 'staying ahead of the game'.  Aside from the fact that I had spent so much time and energy to develop and perfecting this unique product, the possible implications for my brand and the potential revenue loss, the main thing that upset and infuriated me was that  IT. IS. JUST. PLAIN. WRONG.

Personalised Papercut Bauble © Studio Seed

Personalised Papercut Bauble © Studio Seed

I immediately sought advice, both legal and from friends in the industry who have had experience of this matter on a bigger scale (remeber the Rachael Taylor / Marks & Spencer case?)  I am also a member of ACID (Anti Copying In Design) who have so far been very helpful. As hard as it was, I also held myself back from a full on rant on social media. I approached the seller of these copies directly who disappointingly denied any knowledge of my products and refused to remove them. (Although I am not going to share any specifics, believe me, this was beyond unbelievable). Following further legal advice, I had to reiterate my position in that I had obvious rights over these products which I had launched to the market over a year ago. Having to 'fight for my rights' and even defend myself to an indivdual who had so blatantly copied my designs and continued to blatantly lie about it was exhausting, time consuming and very upsetting.  Most of the designers I know wouldn't dream of even going close to ripping off someone else's creation - and to these people my advice would be to wise up on your rights and do what you can to protect yourself. And also to read this fabulously sound advice from Lucy Ledger (and Ryan Gosling) which is worth it just for the Ryan Gosling-ness.

Personalised Papercut Baubles © Studio Seed

Personalised Papercut Baubles © Studio Seed

According to UK law, it is for the individual to prove that they haven't copied a product, rather than for the original creator to prove that they have. Whether intentional or not, if a design created the same 'overall appearance' as another to an informed user, then an infringement has occured. So, after over two weeks of battling, the individual has reluctantly agreed to remove the products while she re-designs them. I am obviously relieved but also nervous that I will have to deal with this again so I will be watching like a hawk and keeping my solicitor on speeddial just in case. Now I can finally get back to designing ORIGINAL products and ranges.

Image from Emily McDowell Illustration via Etsy

Image from Emily McDowell Illustration via Etsy

{Small, perhaps unprofessional, note. The individual couldn't even spell 'copyright'.}