So I’m lucky enough to have had some very successful greeting card ranges in my time. Trouble is, like all things, some other people want a piece of the action too.
It’s happened to me on several occasions, that people I have known, sometimes quite well, have decided to take key elements of what I had published, and published variations themselves.
It’s particularly hard to take when it’s people you know and you realise that the law makes it very difficult to protect your ideas properly, or at all.
The problem is, that unless it’s a direct copy (which has also happened to us via China) then it comes down to one persons opinion in court, and that’s high risk. If you lose, you can pay the other parties legal fees, which can be high. If you win, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have your legal fees paid ! Most issues are settled out of court, but taking things further is little more than a gamble.
Even with a direct copy, you have to actually prove that the design is yours, and that you originated it and own it. Not that easy to be honest, but we’ve always managed it. Even then, you have to find a legal team that understands you and will act promptly on your instructions.
On one occasion, we actually found ourselves battling our own legal team who just wouldn’t listen or understand what we wanted. Incredible. Obviously we’ve never used them again, and I wholeheartedly hope they’re not in business anymore as some people just don’t deserve to be.
Generally speaking, my policy is to move on. We’re at the sharp end of the design area, often designing new and interesting greeting cards, gifts and stationery, and dwelling on legal issues takes your eyes away from this. Having said that, we have certainly instigated several warning shots via solicitors letters, where certain companies were stepping on our toes too closely, and it’s worked.
And it can be a problem if you don’t do anything. We had a very successful range in the early days, and, shall we say, a number of people were inspired by it. We should have taken some action, but didn’t, and it did shorten the life of the range by not doing something about it. Instead of having a clear market to deal in, we had a confused and overfull market, and ultimately we suffered from it. But get advice first. As I said, you may be certain you have a case, but in legal terms you may not. And even if it’s clear cut, you still may not win.
Often, just legally saying you’ve noticed, that you’re protected, and you’ll go for them, is all you need.
It’s not an easy or comfortable area, but you have to decide if you actually have a case, and if you think you could actually lose, move on to the next thing.