Commission don’t copy
There was a piece in The Guardian a few days ago about M&S withdrawing a T-shirt it was selling, the design of which was ‘bought in good faith’ by the retailer from an international supplier. The design in question bore more than a passing resemblance to work by a young designer called Rachael Taylor. Taylor claims she was getting nowhere fast complaining to M&S until she took to social media. Her original version and the M&S version are shown above.
The article runs “Now Taylor is urging M&S and other high street retailers to publicly sign up to a pledge initiated by the Anti-Copying in Design Group (Acid), set up to protect independent traders and designers from copyright infringement and represent them in disputes. So far, John Lewis, Next and Selfridges have signed up to the promise to ‘Commission it, don’t copy it’, in order to stamp out abuse of intellectual property rights.”
This story also highlights how retailers have a tendency to buy into a ‘look’ rather than develop distinctive branding of their own. We are all familiar with ‘copycat’ supermarket own-label branding. For brands and designers alike, the best defence is in producing work so distinctive in the first place that it cannot be copied without the copycat getting their hand slapped. But when even the mighty Coke has struggled to protect its rights against supermarkets, individuals like Taylor are really in a weak position. It seems social media worked for her – perhaps bringing shame upon the brand one feels has abused one’s rights is a more effective strategy than bringing in the lawyers.