Duplicate Duck / Copyright Infringment 2000

29th August 2010
This is our story of how your work can be copied
Duplicate Duck/Copyright Infringement
It was March 1999 and business was good, since 1990 we had slowly but surely increased our production and range of work and thus was providing two of us with full-time employment in a picturesque location, working from home. I suppose it was a lifestyle as much as it was a business.
The majority of our production was and still is, hand built raku fired animal figures.
Imagine how we were feeling after we received a telephone call from a gallery owner stating that, she had visited the International Spring Fair at the N.E.C two weeks previous and that there was an import company selling copies, in her opinion, of our best selling design, the Indian Runner Duck.
No it can’t be! Then other similar messages began to arrive. We could not ignore their claims; after all if we did maybe the rest of the work we produced would be copied also. Detective work by us revealed that the importer was called Libra or Libra Scales and their location was Cambridge. With the assistance of a couple of gallery shops we supplied we set out to obtain Libra’s catalogues and sales literature, for as yet we had still not seen the alleged copies ourselves. The visual information we finally obtained contained no image of our design and we began to relax as we convinced ourselves that it was all a case of mistaken identity.
Six months later a mail order catalogue was passed on to us by a member of the public, who knew of us and our work and there they were, there was no doubt in our opinion they were copies! We then contacted A.C.I.D. Anti Copying In Design and became members of the organisation, they looked at the information we supplied and advised us how to proceed and set out the possible costs involved. We did some of the work ourselves to reduce expenses, such as obtaining the importers financial records from Companies House and entering into direct negotiations with the managing director of Libra, at his request.
By the end of 1999 we thought we had reached an agreement and a contract was drawn up by our solicitors, then Libra backed out claiming that, in their opinion one duck is much the same as another, also the design they were importing was taken from an antique duck purchased in an Hong Kong market and this item was being delivered to them from the manufacturer in China for comparison. A face-to-face meeting was arranged in London with our respective legal representatives for a date in January 2000.
The meeting took place at our solicitors premises where they, Libra, put forward their case and presented to us their so called Antique Duck, on inspection this item appeared to us as just another copy but a different colour to the others we had previously seen, the copyright infringement was based on form not surface decoration. After two hours of wrangling an agreement was reached where amongst other things they, Libra agreed not to import any further ducks that were like or substantially like ours, not to knowingly import or offer for sale any of our other designs, to compensate us and to make a contribution to our legal fees, they did not admit liability.
We had to allow them to offer for sale their existing stock in the U.K.over 24 month period from the contract date, any unsold stock to be delivered up to us after this period. Not the best deal for us but probably the most realistic under the circumstances. Would we do it again? Yes, if not every thing you design and produce is up for grabs otherwise, by any opportunist who may come along. What can you do to protect yourself? The easiest and least costly is to register your designs by posting them to yourself by recorded delivery, include any drawings, photographs of the finished work etc. then file it away and hope you never have to open it in court. Gather as much information as you can about the alleged infringer. Inform them of your designs at the earliest opportunity and of your claim that copyright infringement has taken place. Give as little information as you can about yourself, such as your address, your production output of the alleged item etc.
For further information on copyright infringement see http://www.acid.uk.com/