For many years designers have felt helpless against copycats, especially if the copycat is a big company because the laws surrounding design are complex and it’s perceived expensive to take action. If you’ve spent weeks and months designing a unique product and taken it to market successfully, it’s heart wrenching to see your work imitated and a faceless corporation profiting from your ideas and inspiration.
It’s not the case that you’re helpless however, as demonstrated by an ACID (Anti Copying In Design) member Big Little Toys has recently demonstrated when a high street retailer came out with a copy cat imitation of their Elf for Christmas design. ACID report that B & M Bargains have agreed to cease sales and to pay Big Little Toys £25,000 in damages plus legal costs.
Sarah Greenwell, a mum of two created Big Little Toys in 2015 and they are a small business with their star product being the Elf for Christmas.
“We had a very strong case of alleging copyright infringement, registered and unregistered design infringement, trade mark infringement and passing off and we were surprised that B & M completely ignored this fact. However, when such a strong case exists Big Little Toys demonstrated that they were prepared to take a very strong stance about the infringement of their intellectual property and the result speaks for itself.”
– Niall Head-Rapson, Director of ACID Affiliate law firm McDaniel & Co
There are two lessons to be gleaned from this copycat case. Firstly if you are a designer and have created a product just to see it copied then you can and should take action. Obviously we would strongly advise you seek legal advice and can prove the date your product was created and demonstrate from dated design sketches and early production runs that yours is the original.
The second lesson is a warning to those who imitate products that they’ve seen and manufacture very similar products to retail. It’s a bad idea as the original designer could well decide to take you to court for design infringement.