Copyright theft nipped in the bud

ElaineNester's picture

Alpha was able to prevent a label design that they had created for a client from being used by one of the client's competitors recently - thanks to a fortunate sighting of the label before it was launched. "I was asked to attend a meeting at a company about 130 miles away," said Elaine Nester of Alpha. "The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the branding of a new product range. When I arrived at the premises I was shown into an office where there was a display of products including one which I took at first glance to belong to a client of ours in Shropshire.

On closer inspection I realised that the label on the product, whilst almost identical to the one we had designed almost a year earlier, had been changed in that this company's brand name was there in place of the brand name of our client." Elaine questioned the company about the origins of the label and the marketing manager freely admitted that she had taken Alpha's design to a printer and asked him to copy it. When Elaine told her that this was not permissible, the marketing manager deferred to her boss, the owner of the company, who asked Elaine to provide a quotation for designing a new label for them.

Realising that Alpha had designed the original label, he then claimed that he did not like it and that copying it was just a temporary solution. A quotation was issued, along with a quotation for a larger batch of work which was the original reason for the meeting. After a couple of weeks the company told Elaine that they were not going ahead with any of the work and that they intended to carry on using the copied design.

"They had changed their stance on the label, saying it was not a copy and that it differed in some respects, they had the right to use it and, worst of all, that they were customers of our client, as well as being competitors, so our client was unlikely to want to upset them," said Elaine. "At that point I decided to involve our Shropshire client," said Elaine. "They needed to know what was going on and I needed their support if I was to make a formal objection.

The offending company then tried to suggest that we were "causing trouble" because they hadn't given us the work but this was just a further demonstration of their lack of integrity. We, and our client, had to demand that the design was not used and issue a warning of legal proceedings. They finally backed down and said that the design would not be used."

If this copied label had been launched it could have caused substantial damage to the brand of the Shropshire client. Not only that but the other company had plans to roll the identity out over a wide range of additional products. Had it been an honest mistake and they had agreed to change the design, that would have been the end of the matter and no damage would have been done.

This just shows that unscrupulous companies will take work that other companies have paid for and pass it off as their own. Designers must flag up instances such as this and fight strenuously to protect their work.

Steve's picture

Some years ago my client

Some years ago my client discovered a website identical bar the text and logo to the one we designed for them. We contacted the owners of the site who's designer claimed that it was built from a template. This was far from the case however as we had built the site bespoke and throughout the design were photos that we had taken! They had even copied photos of local landmarks from the contact page! After refering the case to a solicitor the site was removed but it still left me amazed that there are people out there who consider that it is fine to copy or rip off intellectual property.

 It's a big issue for the creative industry so maybe in the future Creative Shrops could have an event focusing on this?

It seems we have two very

It seems we have two very lucky designers here, who both 'happened' upon the copyright infringements. The big problem with this issue is the fact that we have to police it ourselves - it is through sheer luck that either the designer or client spots the copies - and this makes copyright theft a very high risk indeed.The worst part of all this is that there are both designers and clients out there willing to pass work as their own. The clients clearly do not value design and the designers lack the creative skills to create something bespoke. One can only hope that both parties are revealed as cheats and fraudsters, and bad news sure spreads fast. I say let's name and shame them - we don't want them in the industry - and certainly not part of this valuable network. Perhaps the closer we all work together the more chance there is we can start to look out for each other?

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