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Coping with copycats

It's probably every designers biggest fear... Being sent a link to a product that looks oh so very familiar, but is just all wrong. The screen shows you a design you've looked at a million times, but there are slight differences and you know something is not right:
Someone has stolen your idea, replicated it and is passing it off as their own.

Unfortunately this exact thing has happened to me this week. And it isn't just for one of my products, but for five of them (yes 5!!) of my original designs have been copied and are being sold and marketed under a different brand. My Stitchable Passport Covers, Travel Wallets, Luggage Tags, Tote Bags and Jewellery Wraps  - all almost identically replicated, but with text translated into Arabic and logos changed. In the same colours, with the same details, the same aeroplane thread-board, the same type of packaging, photography style, I could go on and on. 

Staring numbly at this screen I did what all Company Directors would do in this case: swore a lot, had a little cry, drunk a lot of wine, and asked:

'How could anyone be that audacious???!'

Starting a company is a leap of faith, taking an idea that you believe in enough to pursue. And after that is a continuous slog to nurture, love and develop those ideas that first created it. It is hard work, monotonous tasks, hundreds of daily rejections, learning curves and spreadsheets. 

And there are highs: lovely reviews, exciting stockists, good sales days- those things that keep you doing it. 

But at times like this, even 3 years in, I really question if it is all worth the heartache. The amount of personal investment and time - and then someone else just copy/ pastes. As well as unfair, and unjust, and really frustrating, it feels so violating. It is theft, and yet it happens so often and is so difficult to protect from. 

In my case it isn't just the idea of 'stitching where you've been' or using a perforated leather, it is every single detail, every colour choice, even the pre-stitched examples (they have copied my friend Sara to stitch on their luggage tag..!!)

It is someone copying my entire brand, and shamelessly calling them their ideas. 

So here is a little game of spot the difference. Because of course, sometimes copying is unintentional, it can be the unfortunate coincidence of millions of people trying to create items with similar themes, materials and inspirations.

But if you can look at the below and tell me that these items were not bought, studied and copied down the most minute details, I will eat my plane-shaped thread-board. 

(I must also say that this company have blocked my Instagram account @chasing_threads_ so that I cannot see their page unless I am on my personal account - so, ya know, it's not like they aren't aware of my existence...)

Stitch Passport Cover
 - Designed 2018 | Copied February 2021

Stitch Travel Wallet - Designed 2019 | Copied February 2021

Stitch Luggage Tag
 - Designed 2019 | Copied February 2021

Stitch Jewellery Wrap - Designed 2019 | Copied February 2021

Stitch Tote Bag - Designed 2019 | Copied February 2021

This discovery happened yesterday. I am a member of ACID (Anti-Copying In Design), and am seeking advice from them. I have also been given some excellent advice by Babs Jamieson of Jamieson Law, which you can find here (I hope you dont have to worry about this issue, but in case you do). She has also warned me that as this relates to designs (rather than copyright or trademark infringement), it is a bit of a trickier one. 

I do hope to be able to fight this and stop my intellectual property being abused. 

But I firstly wanted to write this blog. To put the similarities down side by side on paper (screen) and marvel at just how crazy the situation is. After scanning the IG account (from my personal account that is not blocked 😏) and reading their lies of how they 'designed these new ideas' and 'carefully choose each detail' just makes me feel sick. So I've given myself a day to wallow in the unfairness of it and then get the energy back to deal with it. 

The next step will be to contact the company and see if they will be cooperative. I will keep sharing more on my Instagram if you're interested to follow. 

Thanks for listening and thanks for all your support. 

Em x

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