How I dealt with having my designs copied and copyright advice.

Creative industries in the UK annually bring in £71 billion pounds and this is growing by 10% each year. I am surrounded by creative people and designers, and one of the biggest concerns is copyright and IP issues (known as Intellectual Property),  so I’ve decided to dedicate a blog post sharing my own experience, with advice on how to deal with designs being copied.

I have always loved experimenting, designing and making my own things whether it be handmade cards, upholstery, calligraphy, textiles and crafts.  Having your designs copied when you’re in business can be a real time consuming and costly headache. As many of you will know, I have had several experiences of being copied and you dread the expense, legal fees, wasted man-hours and the huge effort to fight your case.

 

Author and designer Jane Means

Many small designers and businesses have shared similar experiences or asked for help. Even the big fashion houses who launch their new collections on the catwalk will have copycat designs out in days. This can sometimes be a positive thing, buyers may wish to try out the cheaper version, and may eventually buy the ‘real thing’.

 

So what do you do when you think your idea has been copied? Well in my case it was to talk it over with my family, friends and staff to see what their thoughts were incase I was over reacting. You will get an honest answer here, but I usually trust my own instincts. I would then seek some legal advice and look for help online.

Apple mac keyboard

Photo courtesy of tutsplus.com

 

My first experience of being copied was by a family friend. She had started her own gift wrapping service which I had no problem with (It’s a free world and I believe competition is healthy), however I was horrified to see the content of her website.  It had virtually been a copy and paste job directly from my own website.  I’ve also had experiences where photos of my work have appeared on competitors websites (I will talk to you about this later) and usually a short ‘to the point’ letter or phone call will rectify the situation.  Competition is healthy but copying isn’t.

Ribbon storage dispenser

I am a firm believer that those who work hard and put in the effort will get results.  As Theo Paphitis recently quoted at an awards event in Birmingham “You only get out what you put in”.  There is nothing like an original and when you see a copycat design, in my eyes it’s a second class product.

jan costantine

 

Photo courtesy of Jan Constantine

One classic case I regularly see is lookalike cushions from the Jan Constantine range.  Although her designs are very Union Jack (which you can’t copyright), they are unique in their own way and often copied. The company pretty much have a constant legal battle protecting their work.

 

Jane Means dogs and cats ribbon

My first legal case was with Berisfords Ribbons.  For years I had a really good relationship with them as one of their stockists.  I had designed a classic dog and cat ribbon for Liberty and decided to use Berisfords as my manufacturer. I gave them my artwork and had the range made.  Much to my horror, they produced their own designs a few months later.  They were so similar that it fooled most of the industry.  I took legal action and won my case.

Berisfords dog cat ribbon

Despite it being a costly and upsetting process, the main thing here for me was to hold my head up high, stay professional and keep designing.  We were inundated with emails and customer comments but for me it was the support of clients, customers and fellow ribbon competitors. My staff were also upset so it was crucial to stay calm and weather the storm. I am lucky to have a loyal following on Social Media who were very supportive, however I know of a company who had been copied and went to the extreme lengths of deactivating their social media accounts so their business activity could remain private, with competitors (and customers) being left in the dark.

 

I have worked in the gift industry for nearly 20 years and have heard so many stories with small designers finding their work copied and on the shelves of High Street stores.  I sat next to a buyer of a well known discount home store on a flight back from Hong Kong chatting away about my work.  Months later a customer got in touch congratulating me on stocking the chain, except that wasn’t the case.  This was a classic case of being copied.

Bookishly v marks-and-spencer

Louise Verity from Bookishly took on Marks and Spencers after seeing typographic arts prints similar to hers. After a series of lawyers letters, M&S claimed it was unfounded.  Rather than taking further action which would have been a financial nightmare, Louise used lawyers to highlight the experience on social media.  It got a lot of support from the public, press and the design community, but Marks & Spencer maintained their position. They said the product was a short print run and wouldn’t be reprinted. M+S eventually removed it from their website and sold through their stock.

Louise says “I’m not exactly happy with the situation, but I have come to accept that the best thing to do is to rise up and move on. Getting caught up in the unfairness of the situation isn’t going to get the creative juices going”.  I was mesmerised by Louise’s experience on the Folksy Blog and her feature has some great advice.

 

Jane Means and Dids Macdonald ACID

With my various experiences, It gave me food for thought so I decided to speak out and become an Anticopy campaigner helping other designers.  For this feature I have got together with a couple of top experts in this field.  Dids Macdonald (D) is the CEO of ACID and has had over 25 years experience in the design industry, and Niall Head Rapson (N) is a leading copyright lawyer for McDaniel and Co.  We filmed a feature together and here are some of the most common issues that designers can face.

 

How can designers protect their work if their budget is very small?

N: Most of the work that a designer creates does not require formal registration as it is automatically protected by Unregistered Design Right and Copyright You don’t have to pay any fees to protect your work.  What you must do though is make a thorough design history of your work and make sure the work is dated.  Ideally this should be by someone else.  A©ID, as part of their membership offer a Deposit Scheme where you send them your designs.  This is crucial to ensure you get an independent verification of a date before which the designs must have been created.

You can also registered your Designs and Brand names but these come at a cost.  A registered design will cost you a minimum of £60 and a trade mark a minimum of £200.

JM: As well as ACID, You will find lots of useful information on the UK Copyright Service website.

 

What do you do if someone asks to take a photograph of your work for exhibition stand?

 

N: Say no.  It is the easiest way for your designs to be published, sent around the world and copied.  If someone wants images of your products, ask them what they want them for.  If you think you want to send them some images then make sure you have all the details of the contact.  If they have your images and not theirs and you know who they are then you have more control over what they do with the images

 

D: Be very careful as designs can be the other side in seconds and on a production line in minutes so the word is caution.

 

JM: For me I would always ask for a business card.  Quiet often the photographer could be an admirer, blogger or journalist and it’s always a good idea to ask the permission before you snap away, whether you are on holiday or admiring someones work.

British ribbons wholesale

What can you do if you find your photograph on another website?

 

N: It is annoying especially if it is without your permission.  The first thing to do is to as the website to remove the image.  If they won’t do that, then you send what is called a “Take Down Notice” to the web host.  The web host will more often than not remove the offending web page.  This is because if they don’t they can be liable for the use of the photograph.

 

Is there an easy way you can track where your photographs are being used online?

 

N: There are some imaging software products available but ideally you need to make sure that you have a record of who you have given your images to, and more importantly told them what they can and cannot do with them.  If you can, make a secure area where someone needs a password to download images (such as Flickr) and have terms of use of the photograph

JM: There’s a great little app called Picnic that will easily find where your images are being used online. Photo sharing websites such as Pinterest will have a facility where you can report if your image is being used without your consent. A simple search on google images can soon pick out similar images as well as your own.

 

Deckchair stripe ribbons

 

When do you distinguish when something has been copied?

 

N: It is possible that someone has created something that is the same as yours but done so independently.  However, if the person who has the copy is someone you know or has seen your work because, for instance, they are a customer or they made an enquiry. then it is likely that they have copied your work.  In legal terms if they have had access to your design then it is for them to prove they did not copy your work

 

What is the first step to take once you realise that your design has been copied?

 

N: You need to write to them and let them know that you think they have copied your work.  Ideally this should come from a lawyer to make sure that you don’t make threats which you shouldn’t make.

 

D: First of all don’t panic, gather all your evidence for your design audit trail and try and buy a copy of the product, and obtain the receipt this is really important. You then need to get professional advice but you can do a lot yourself.

 

 

What is the process for taking legal action?

 

N: If they won’t stop or acknowledge you then you need to decide if you want to issue court proceedings.  You will need to have court papers drawn up which sets out your claim.

 

D: Normally a letter from your solicitor will do the trick highlighting the case. This can be sorted out of court with direct correspondence. Only a very very few cases actually go to the final court hearing

 

What type of costs are involved?

 

N: Well if it doesn’t involve Registered Designs or Patents you can use the IP Small Claims court which is cheaper.  It will also depend if you use a lawyer or not.  If you don’t use a lawyer it will cost up to £735 for the Court fee to start the claim.  If you use a lawyer then it can cost up to £10 000.  If you need to use the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court then the cost is up to £50k.

 

D: That really depends on how long the and the legal letters take to go backwards and forwards that’s why the first letter before action is really important so you got all the evidence is strong case and to put together side which can’t be legally challenged.

JM: The small claims court is the low-hassle way to take legal action for up to £10,000 against a firm or individual. You can represent yourself quite easily and the Citizens Advice Bureau can also offer additional support. I would strongly suggest that you use a solicitor to draft a strong letter at the start.  You will then appear serious with a legal team behind you.

goody bag ideas

Is it true there are seven points of difference?

 

N: No.  Each case is taken on the facts of the case.  What a Court looks for is if the essence of the design has been taken.  They look to find the intellectual skill and effort a designer has put into the design.  There can be one point of difference which defeats a claim or there can be 20 points of difference which make no difference to the Court.  Generally if you have a design that someone has set out to copy then you will have a strong case.  See the images in the Red Bus Case

 

What legislation is there to protect designers?

 

N: There are lots of Acts of Parliament and European Legislation which protects Designer interests.  Most of it is covered by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.  If you have registered trade marks or designs then these are covered by the Trade marks Act 1994 and the Registered designs Act 1949.  There was an Intellectual Property Act 2014 which brought in Criminal Sanctions for infringement of Registered Designs

 


brown paper gift wrapping

I am being followed on Pinterest and Twitter by my competitors should I block them?

 

N: It is up to you but if they copy you, then you will have proof that they have had access to your designs.  They will still be able to look at your designs on your web site, on any sites you sell on, or your stockists sites so blocking them isn’t going to stop them seeing your products, but it will make it easier to prove they know about you.

 

D: In one word yes

 

Are any rules or legislation coming into force to protect designer’s rights?

 

N: There is a lot out there already which covers you.  It would be nice if there were criminal sanctions for unregistered design right as there is for copyright.  There isn’t anything in the horizon at the moment that isn’t covered already

Can you insure yourself against copyright?

 

N: You can take out an insurance policy that will pay your legal fees if you are infringed.  A©ID have one of the best ones on the market for designers which pays out up to £100k to take legal action

 

D: Yes.  This is an exciting time because there is an insurance that’s just come in called  ACID IP Insured. We insure our cars, we insure our homes, we insure our possessions, so why not a business and future?

 

cat and dog ribbon

 

Everyone loves a story behind a product and for me when I am designing a new ribbon collection, I have usually been inspired by something I’ve seen or experienced.  The dogs and cats designs were from actual photos of pets belonging to my friends and family and made in to silhouettes.

 

Colours that I bring in to a collection can have a story too.  The fuschia designs were from a flower I’d photographed whilst on honeymoon in Tahiti, the vibrant dots and stripes from my favourite sweets, Liquorice Allsorts!

Jane Means Dotty Ribbons

 

Copying is often referred to as underlying form of flattery.  To me it is just lazy business behaviour, and I am really pleased to see that several High Street stores have signed up in support of the “Don’t copy it Campaign’ including John Lewis and Selfridges.

My biggest annoyance is participants who come on a gift wrapping workshop, and then turn around and start teaching that same course, with similar descriptions, price and content. They then start drifting on to the same websites and forums using identical keywords and hashtags. I have even had requests from people who want to ‘shadow’ a course for free before starting their own – unbelievable!

20 Years ago when my business was born there was no internet, It took me years of teacher training, researching the old fashioned way, course writing, long hours, unpaid work, sweat and tears to get the workshops off the ground.  I think it is now easier than ever to be copied and to be accused of copying in this digital age. Through the years I have kept a log of photos, notes, scrapbooks which not only bring back lots of great memories but acts as my IP proof.

On a final note, the best thing for me is that people fly from all over the world to come on the courses.  I am shortly starting my first creative classes in Singapore and the only way to carry on and strive ahead, is to be a leader, and not a follower.

 

 

Jane Means filming ACID feature

We’d love to hear any comments below.  For all other enquiries please email us directly at info@janemeans.co.uk

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Gift wrapping awkward shapes with tissue

One of the main questions I am asked on my gift wrapping courses, is how to tackle the gift wrapping of awkward shapes. To many it fills them with horror yet I believe wrapping awkward shapes is easier than a square box, which is more strict with measurements.

You may have bought a shirt or scarf in a smart boutique and have wondered how they wrap it without using any tape.  They have done it so quickly that you’ve missed how they’ve done it.
gift wrapping

Today I’ve picked a fabric apron, and there are numerous ways you can wrap this but I’m going to share a quick and easy technique.

Firstly fold it into a nice compact square or oblong, to keep it neat I tend to fold from the edges into the centre, so you end up with no visible hems or ties.
You will need an enough tissue to go around the object and some excess tissue at both sides. I have chosen contrasting tissue  in white and burgundy.
gift wrapping awkward shapes
Fold one of the end over so it forms a decorative band. Place this band in the centre of the gift and tuck in the other edge underneath, I refer to this as wrapping backwards!

gift wrapping challenge

It may also help if you initially use double sided tape to hold everything in place although it’s good if you can get in to the habit of doing this freehand with practice.   For the sides you will now tuck the decorative band underneath the object so it resembles a pillow case.

gift wrapping by Jane Means


Finally you will tuck in the remaining side in on itself so you end up with a neat finish.  You can also lightly dust the tissue with your favourite fragrance or room spray to add to the senses.  When I’m wrapping fabric items I also like to play safe and have a layer of white tissue as the base colour.
gift wrapping tissue wrapping

The tissue wrapped creation then can be placed in a box, gift bag, or decorated with ribbon and embellishments.  You could also make a tissue pom pom with any remaining tissue.

Gift wrapping with tissue

 

I am also delighted to announce that I have landed a Worldwide book deal, and my hardback book ‘giftwrapped’ will be launched in November 2014, so if you love gift wrapping and want to pick up lots of techniques this is the perfect book for you.

Happy wrapping folks!

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Our hectic Christmas gift wrapping season

We are now in to the peak time of the gift wrapping calendar, and are busier than ever with our London gift wrapping services and events until Christmas

For the last few weeks we have been busy gift wrapping wicker hamper baskets for a private client in Mayfair (over 300 of them).  You can also see how to pack the perfect hamper basket in my previous blog post.

gift wrapping hamper baskets

It was wonderful to have a packed house for my gift wrapping demonstrations and workshops at the Spirit of Christmas and Country Living Fairs in London and Glasgow.

Gift wrapping masterclass

Kirstie Allsopp popped along to the Country Living Fair in London to sign copies of her new book ‘Kirstie’s Christmas Crafts’ on our stand.  We are delighted to be featured in it, and can’t wait for the TV series.

Jane Means featured in Kirstie Allsopp book

I was also involved with the ‘Get Creative’ Event at Liberty in London and spent a fun 90 minutes gift wrapping live in their window on a busy Thursday evening infront of crowds. The iconic London store stock our ribbons and I popped in several days later to run a free ribbon masterclass for customers in their magical Christmas shop on the 4th floor.

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Clifton Nurseries, another stockiest of our ribbons invited me to run a mini gift wrapping workshop in their heavenly ‘Quince Café’ in Little Venice.  We all had lots of creative fun whilst sipping fizz and getting in to the festive spirit.  I can’t wait to be back there on the evening of December 9th to do another festive event and tickets are £20

clifton event

I headed over to Kent and East Sussex to run 3 separate events in one day for Millbrook Garden Centres.  It was a race against time to reach each garden centre in time but we did it albeit tight, and it was wonderful to meet so many of you.

Selfridges gift wrapping service

We have now started our Gift Wrapping Service in Selfridges flagship store in London. You will find us in the Beauty Hall on the ground floor every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until Christmas from 5-10pm.  The service is complimentary when you buy any products from the Selfridges Beauty Hall (minimum £70).

Jane Means gift wrapping at Selfridges

I am delighted to be working behind the scenes for Chanel in Bond Street in mid December.  You will also find me gift wrapping at the Ralph Lauren Fulham Road Store at a VIP charity event, and for Jack Wills and Dior just before Christmas.  This year I will have no lack of luxury stores to buy my presents from and already I am drafting my Christmas list. I just need time to wrap them!

Jane Means gift wrapping with Paul O'Grady

It’s also been an incredible season for filming and media. I appeared live on the Paul O’Grady Show on December 2nd (You can view it on ITV1 catch up).

Jane McDonald and Jane Means

I was lucky enough to be joined by Il Divo, Brendan O’Carroll and Jane McDonald and enjoyed a quick tipple at the aftershow party.

Red cotton gingham ribbon

You’ll also see me appearing on a BBC2 Christmas Programme on December 19th and I also had great fun filming with Lyndsey James for her forthcoming Craft blog in January.  The short outakes clip on Youtube is worth a watch and very funny.  I also have a Kuwait film crew popping over to film my work sometime before Christmas.

Jane Means on BBC Radio

 

I will be joining presenter Melvyn Prior on BBC Radio Lincolnshire on 11th December.  We will be discussing everything Christmas and it will no doubt be fun and chaos in the studio. I will then be heading to do a Christmas gift wrapping evening event at one of Rutlands best loved boutiques, Vanilla in Oakham.

Christmas Ribbon Jane Means

We’ve had some great press lately with features in the Observer, Times and Telegraph. Our ribbons have been featured in many magazines including Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Essentials, Woman and Home, Country Living, Prima and Bella to name a few! You will also see them in the second series of The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2.

Jane Means Ribbons

With such a crazy season, I will have little time to celebrate Christmas myself as I don’t pop my scissors down until late on December 24th.  It will be a quick family supper and as I have worked non stop since my wedding, I will finally be heading off on honeymoon on Christmas Day for a well earned holiday!

London gift wrapping service

 

If you have any general enquiries about our Gift Wrapping Services, Events and Courses please email us at info@janemeans.co.uk or contact us

I hope that you all have a lovely Christmas and we would love to hear about your festive wrapping in our comments box below

 

 

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