Monday 16 July 2012

Copyright in an Etched Floral

A recent spat between UK designer Rachael Taylor and retail giant Marks and Spencer demonstrates just how important it is for designers to protect their intellectual property.

Rachael Taylor created her "Etched Floral" hand drawn design in 2008 and since then she has produced various products bearing the design, including wallpaper, oven gloves, lampshades and tea towels. These products have been featured in a number of magazines, therefore one assumes that the design is relatively well-known in the world of etched floral designs.

M+S recently launched a new range of t-shirts bearing what Taylor calls a "strikingly similar" design. M+S's t-shirts can be seen alongside Taylor's products on her blog, so you can decide for yourself how similar the designs are. Pretty similar, is this blogger's conclusion.

© Holly Hayes
Taylor complained to M+S about a month ago and they responded saying that they were "unaware of the design". If they didn't copy her design it's not copyright infringement, however Taylor went a step further and decided to use social media to complain more publicly. Without admitting liability, M+S then pulled the product, saying: "We are sorry for any disappointment caused to Rachael Taylor Designs from the sale of a T-shirt that we bought in good faith from a direct supplier. After investigating the complaint we immediately withdrew the product from sale."

Taylor's request to high street retailers is that they publicly sign up to a pledge initiated by the Anti-Copying in Design Group, set up to protect independent designers from copyright infringement and to represent them in disputes. John Lewis, Next and Selfridges have signed up and have promised to commission rather than copy designs.

Copyright cannot be registered in the UK. This clearly benefits independent designers who may not know how or may not have the resources to register copyright in each of their designs, however it also means that in cases like this designers need to show copying in order to prove that copyright in their work has been infringed. It also means that retailers have no way of checking whether their suppliers are providing them with original works or not.

Taylor could of course have registered her design, which would have made her battle much easier, however many designers aren't aware that they can register designs, and even in larger companies the right is under-used. Registered designs are seen as complicated and niche rights however as this case demonstrates, in order to protect designers it is time that registered designs became more mainstream.


Anonymous said...

Rachael Taylor designs are copyrighted and she has even worked for m&s before so they are aware of her work. Rachael has joined forces with ACID to get all high street stores to support the “COMMISSION IT, DON’T COPY IT!” CAMPAIGN! people are signing the petition to support this idea and putting badges on their website

it would be great if you can all get on board and sign! : )

Anonymous said...

Rachael designs are copyrighted!