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Help with copyright claim

SoZoSoZo Registered User
edited July 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Hi everyone. I'm a long time lurker in need of some legal advice. My GF has started a tiny crafts business making plushies. She's set up a website and has a DA account and so far she has sold one plushie.

Today she got an email from a man claiming that her designs were similar to his and that her business name was copyright already and that if she didn't stop selling her designs that he would pursue legal action against her.

This has shaken her up quite a bit and I'm at a loss as to what help to offer her. The man hasn't provided a link to his designs so we can't compare them and I've told her not to respond yet until we have a better grasp of how to proceed.

I really doubt that he could have a claim to her copying his designs. They're just ice lollys with smiley faces on them in a Japanese cutsie style. The sort of thing you might see on packaging all across Asia.

As for the name. I don't know how to validate his claims but a simple google search has revealed nothing.

What should I tell her? Should she ask him to show her evidence of claimed design theft? Please help!

SoZo on

Posts

  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Get a lawyer, consult with him on the next step.

    Nothing else said will be sound advice, for copyright and such you really need a pro as there are so many issues you can fall afoul of.

    Enc on
  • DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    A few warning bells here really set off the bullshit alarm:

    1. You can't "copyright" a business name. this would instead be trademark infringement.
    2. Some guy from the internet is not something to be afraid of. If his lawyer contacts you with a cease and desist that is another matter entirely.

    If she's acting in good faith and this is a small venture, i wouldn't waste cash on a lawyer or even bother with this fuckstick.

    Then again IANAL.

    Deebaser on
  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Deebaser wrote: »
    A few warning bells here really set off the bullshit alarm:

    1. You can't "copyright" a business name. this would instead be trademark infringement.
    2. Some guy from the internet is not something to be afraid of. If his lawyer contacts you with a cease and desist that is another matter entirely.

    If she's acting in good faith and this is a small venture, i wouldn't waste cash on a lawyer or even bother with this fuckstick.

    Then again IANAL.

    I too ANAL (hehe) but I'd agree. Unless actual legal action starts happening I don't see why you would need a lawyer.

    TychoCelchuuu on
  • RubberchristRubberchrist Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Have her look up a couple copyright/business lawyers and have their names handy. That is probably a good idea in general, but until she actually gets a legal document, let the guy bitch.

    Rubberchrist on
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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Ignore it, and keep doing what you're doing. Once you get a cease and desist paper from a lawyer, lawyer up.

    The fact that it's "copyright infringement" for a name sends up red flags immediately. And having similar products ain't no thang. I am not a lawyer, but, unless you're using trade secrets (or methods) or using a trademarked item (IE, selling optimus prime dolls or stealing pretty much his ideas outright) he's got no case either way.

    Ask him to prove it. Really, it's up to him to go balls to the wall to prove you're stealing clientele from him or whatever. He probably just wants to extort you for money, which is pretty common in this day and age.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • TheAngryDealerTheAngryDealer Registered User
    edited June 2010
    unless it's an official, mailed letter from a lawyer I would ignore it. A lot of companies will try to scare out new competition with trademark threats with no legal backing.

    TheAngryDealer on
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I'm not familiar with Japanese law and there are not many Japanese forumers (even fewer who know about copyright law, I'm sure), so you should at least contact an attourney to see if you can get a free consultation of some sort. You should also definitely make him show proof; he might just want you to stop and is using copyright as a way to scare you.

    In general you cannot copyright clothing patterns, sewing patterns, and you cannot prevent others from copying a sewing pattern. This is why you have knockoff design houses like H&M that can simply take apart a designer's item and re-create it. Same with the vast majority of sewn/plush figures, especially those based on very common shapes.

    What you CAN copyright is the name or a specific item itself. Teddy Ruxpin does not prevent others from creating talking teddy bears, but it does prevent anyone from using the name. Arguably it also prevents someone from making a talking teddy bear and using a name that is very similar in order to create confusion.

    But in order to sue for copyright infringement you need to prove that you have a copyrighted item (not that hard) and that the offending product violates your copyright in specific ways.


    Actually, now that I think about it, if this is just a dude emailing you complaining about your girlfriend's stuff, your first course of action is to reply and say "Please have your lawyer submit a legal cease & desist outlining where I have violated copyright, including examples of your own goods and where I am clearly violating your copyright. I will have your lawyer's claim looked at by my attourney." Because if this guy is legit, he would have his own legal counsel; otherwise he's just trolling and being an asshole. There's no reason you should spend your own time and money defending yourself when the guy hasn't even made a reasonable attempt to show you he's legit in his claim.

    EggyToast on
    || Flickr — || PSN: EggyToast
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    unless it's an official, mailed letter from a lawyer I would ignore it. A lot of companies will try to scare out new competition with trademark threats with no legal backing.

    This. ^

    It could also be a guy in the middle of nowhere who sells these things for his livelihood and doesn't want some person on the internet selling them too.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Oh. Yes. Japan. Well that changes everything.

    I didn't even notice that.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • SoZoSoZo Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Thanks for all the responses. It's very reassuring.

    My location is still listed as Japan on here, but we're both back in the UK after a year on JET, so I don't know if that makes things simpler or not.

    Once again, many thanks!

    SoZo on
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I think that the UK and the US are very similar in this in that ignore them until he substantiates his claim. I think he's either trying to scare your g/f out of the market, or, extort money out of you.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    "Please have your lawyer submit a legal cease & desist outlining where I have violated copyright, including examples of your own goods and where I am clearly violating your copyright. I will have your lawyer's claim looked at by my attorney."

    yeah, this is the only thing you should send him, if you send anything.

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Ignore it entirely.

    Thanatos on
  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2010
    unless it's an official, mailed letter from a lawyer I would ignore it. A lot of companies will try to scare out new competition with trademark threats with no legal backing.

    Even if it were, a lot of lawyers are willing to send a letter that they know isn't backed up by the law on the hopes of intimidating the other party. This is why it's good to have a lawyer that you know and can take this stuff to.

    That aside, anyone who claims "copyright" based on the name of your business is speaking completely out of their ass. I'm not a lawyer either, but I'm willing to say smart money is on him not winning that one. Business names are the domain of trademark law, which is VERY different from copyright.

    Now, if she is running a business in the same field that he is, and her name/logo are similar enough to engender legitimate confusion in the average consumer, and he can prove sales/legitimate business operations PRIOR to the date that she can, he can still force her to change names under trademark law. If he hires a lawyer. Which he hasn't, or he'd know that copyright law is irrelevant here.

    If he hasn't hired a lawyer, your best bet is to ignore him. If he does, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES RESPOND DIRECTLY. Take all correspondence to YOUR lawyer, and have your lawyer respond. Direct ALL correspondence regarding a legal matter through your lawyer. Or, just don't respond if he doesn't have one himself. It's a waste of time until he has a lawyer threaten you with court.

    Anything you do say in return can be easily twisted and used against you, though.

    So I say, ignore him, wait for him to lawyer up, have your lawyer handle it.

    On the upside, if she's only ever sold one plushie, he's going to have a hard time arguing for damages due to her dilution of his trademark.

    Pheezer on
    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2010
    Oh, if you're in the UK then I think my advice is even more applicable. I'm not a lawyer at all, but I did okay in my business law course, and I took it in Canada where the laws are quite similar. Except for defamation/libel laws, which you guys are INSANE on, and so I would suggest some caution with regards to publicly ripping into the goose.

    Pheezer on
    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Pheezer wrote: »
    Except for defamation/libel laws, which you guys are INSANE on, and so I would suggest some caution with regards to publicly ripping into the goose.

    I was going to say, she should keep all emails from this dude in case he becomes belligerent, so she can file a libel suit against him which would keep him busy for YEARS in the UK.

    EggyToast on
    || Flickr — || PSN: EggyToast
  • fightinfilipinofightinfilipino Angry as Hell #BLMRegistered User regular
    edited July 2010
    do law schools in the UK have free legal clinics like they do in the US?

    normally i would suggest looking up your nearby law school and checking if they might have an IP or Small Business Legal Clinic which might help you.

    fightinfilipino on
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  • ashridahashridah Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Some advice i'd pass on as well:
    1) keep prototypes of anything she makes, as much as possible to show that she developed the design. At that point, copyright is pointless. She's not selling things that are claimed to be someone else's, she's selling her own, and if there are similarities, they need to show that she copied them, and didn't develop it herself, most likely. Photographs with dates will probably work.
    I don't remember if the UK has this, but if it does, start registering her copyrights. This makes them that much stronger.

    2) If he's claiming copyright on a business name, he's dead in the water already. Business names are trademarks, as others pointed out. Tell your girlfriend to register her own trademark immediately, however. If this guy's this incompetent, it's entirely possible that he's forgotten to do so, and if she's already done it, she has a stronger case for the name than he does, if i remember how that goes well enough.
    He needs to show that there's potential confusion, and that her business is operating within the same domain as his. on the internet, this is probably a simple matter. Unless she's selling on the same site, she's probably okay, and even then.

    IANAL, of course, but more documentation is always better.

    ashridah on
  • Synthetic OrangeSynthetic Orange Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    There's also a good chance that this is a scam being run on your gf. Until you see any legal paperwork or his claim on it, dont do a thing.

    Synthetic Orange on
  • EchoEcho Moderator mod
    edited July 2010
    if the guy has the name trademarked (not copyrighted, as already explained), then it's in a database somewhere. You can check at whatever the equivalent of the USPTO is, though there might be a fee involved.

    And just having the same or very similar name isn't enough, it needs to be in the same business as well. That's why we have Apple Inc. the computer company and Apple Corps Ltd. the music company. (And the lawsuit when Apple Inc. started selling music.)

    Echo on
    Echo wrote: »
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  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Perhaps look at the government copyright office for briefing papers on copyright, trademarks and designs. Should be a link on directgov if you cannot google it.
    Failing that try for a local advice bureau.
    Like said above, if you guys are worried then write back and ask him to identify exactly what the breaches are and what law or rule she has violated. In this situation it can be uncertain as to whether such an approach or ignoring him is the right one

    Kalkino on
    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • cliffskicliffski Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    does the guy hassling you actually have a website?

    cliffski on
  • SoZoSoZo Registered User
    edited July 2010
    Thanks for all the messages.

    I went to the citizens advice bureau for some legal advice. They weren't much help and admitted that this was a very specific legal area that they didn't have much experience with. They suggested a place nearby that offers business support and is a government agency and should be free so we might consider speaking to them.

    Regarding copyright, she has her design scrapbook and she takes photos of all her plushies after creation so she does have some record of the design process.
    I went to the UK's IPO website and looked up the trademark to see if it had been registered and according to the site it has not. There were some helpful answers on their regarding trademarks which was reassuring.

    The name of the 'copyright' in question is "Lolly Village" and I've had a request from a board member to link to her site so I'm going to put that here in case anyone wants to check it out.

    Lolly Village
    does the guy hassling you actually have a website?

    We don't know. He didn't mention anything in his email except that her designs were similar to his (again, no evidence of what his designs were or where we might see them). The only thing that added any legitimency to his claims was that the email address he sent from was 'his name'@lollyvillage.co.uk and he claimed his designs were copyright 2006. That's all he gave us.

    I think we're probably just going to ignore the guy for now and hope that his threats are idle. If more comes of them I'll let you know.

    And once again thanks guys!

    SoZo on
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Looks like the people on deviantART agree with us, by the way, so I think it's a pretty unanimous agreement.

    Unless the dude is trading on the web, you're probably golden anyways.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    SoZo wrote: »
    Thanks for all the messages.

    I went to the citizens advice bureau for some legal advice. They weren't much help and admitted that this was a very specific legal area that they didn't have much experience with. They suggested a place nearby that offers business support and is a government agency and should be free so we might consider speaking to them.

    Regarding copyright, she has her design scrapbook and she takes photos of all her plushies after creation so she does have some record of the design process.
    I went to the UK's IPO website and looked up the trademark to see if it had been registered and according to the site it has not. There were some helpful answers on their regarding trademarks which was reassuring.

    The name of the 'copyright' in question is "Lolly Village" and I've had a request from a board member to link to her site so I'm going to put that here in case anyone wants to check it out.

    Lolly Village
    does the guy hassling you actually have a website?

    We don't know. He didn't mention anything in his email except that her designs were similar to his (again, no evidence of what his designs were or where we might see them). The only thing that added any legitimency to his claims was that the email address he sent from was 'his name'@lollyvillage.co.uk and he claimed his designs were copyright 2006. That's all he gave us.

    I think we're probably just going to ignore the guy for now and hope that his threats are idle. If more comes of them I'll let you know.

    And once again thanks guys!

    Did they refer you to BusinessLink?

    Kalkino on
    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • SoZoSoZo Registered User
    edited July 2010
    Kalkino wrote: »

    Did they refer you to BusinessLink?

    No they never mentioned them. I don't think the chap knew anymore than I did. Should I look them up?

    SoZo on
  • KalkinoKalkino Buttons Londres Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    SoZo wrote: »
    Kalkino wrote: »

    Did they refer you to BusinessLink?

    No they never mentioned them. I don't think the chap knew anymore than I did. Should I look them up?

    They might be worth the cost of a phone call. Basically they are the small business assistance agency set up by the government department, BIS. I suspect they can't help you much, but worth talking to them all the same

    Check out that link I gave you above, that is the relevant government agency. It should at least give you a good basic understanding of the relevant terms and law

    Kalkino on
    Freedom for the Northern Isles!
  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I can't really help you out with U.K. copyright, but in the U.S. you actually have to copy a given work in order to infringe copyright. That is to say, if you create a work independently with no knowledge of the other work you have not infringed that work.

    Did he specify which of his designs he thinks your girlfriend's design infringes or give examples of designs he thinks she infringed?

    oldsak on
  • SoZoSoZo Registered User
    edited July 2010
    oldsak wrote: »
    Did he specify which of his designs he thinks your girlfriend's design infringes or give examples of designs he thinks she infringed?

    No, nothing. No examples. No specifics. No website. Just a "Hey! That's similar to mine!" and a threat to prosecute.

    SoZo on
  • zatarzatar Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    SoZo wrote: »
    Thanks for all the messages.

    We don't know. He didn't mention anything in his email except that her designs were similar to his (again, no evidence of what his designs were or where we might see them). The only thing that added any legitimency to his claims was that the email address he sent from was 'his name'@lollyvillage.co.uk and he claimed his designs were copyright 2006. That's all he gave us.

    There seems there is not registered a lollyvillage.co.uk though : http://www.dnswatch.info/dns/dnslookup?la=en&host=lollyvillage.co.uk&type=A&submit=Resolve

    Just curious was the reply adress to the email to a different domain?

    zatar on
    Playing as Tvisling Draygo on Europa-Farstar
  • SoZoSoZo Registered User
    edited July 2010
    zatar wrote: »
    SoZo wrote: »
    Thanks for all the messages.

    We don't know. He didn't mention anything in his email except that her designs were similar to his (again, no evidence of what his designs were or where we might see them). The only thing that added any legitimency to his claims was that the email address he sent from was 'his name'@lollyvillage.co.uk and he claimed his designs were copyright 2006. That's all he gave us.

    There seems there is not registered a lollyvillage.co.uk though : http://www.dnswatch.info/dns/dnslookup?la=en&host=lollyvillage.co.uk&type=A&submit=Resolve

    Just curious was the reply adress to the email to a different domain?

    No. I assumed it was an email but when I went to check I learned that the man in question used the 'contact' form on my gf's website to contact her and that auto-emailed to her. I don't know if the address he gave is legitimate as he could have typed in anything in the form. I suppose the only way to find out would be to email that address and wait for a response.

    Thanks, Zatar, thinking of it that way does make suspect even more that this is all bs from whoever this guy really is.

    SoZo on
  • ransimransim Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    SoZo wrote: »

    Off topic: ZOMG CUTE!


    On topic: Ignoring him may not be the best course of action. Normally when I've gotten emails like that I generally respond with the line someone else used "Please have your lawyer contact me with specific details and documentation of the copyright infringement and I will forward it to my attorney for review." I've had to deal with this before in relation to digital content. Normally the moment you ask them to submit a real DMCA take down (Google has a good write up on it) they run away.

    Assertations without proof are bogus.

    ransim on
  • MrMonroeMrMonroe Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Pheezer wrote: »
    If he hasn't hired a lawyer, your best bet is to ignore him. If he does, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES RESPOND DIRECTLY. Take all correspondence to YOUR lawyer, and have your lawyer respond. Direct ALL correspondence regarding a legal matter through your lawyer. Or, just don't respond if he doesn't have one himself. It's a waste of time until he has a lawyer threaten you with court.

    I am only a lawyer in training, but this is the only advice you need to take from this thread

    (this is not legal advice)

    MrMonroe on
  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited July 2010
    ransim wrote: »
    SoZo wrote: »

    Off topic: ZOMG CUTE!


    On topic: Ignoring him may not be the best course of action. Normally when I've gotten emails like that I generally respond with the line someone else used "Please have your lawyer contact me with specific details and documentation of the copyright infringement and I will forward it to my attorney for review." I've had to deal with this before in relation to digital content. Normally the moment you ask them to submit a real DMCA take down (Google has a good write up on it) they run away.

    Assertations without proof are bogus.

    I really don't think this is a very good idea. Any response you make could eventually be twisted into something down the road.

    Either don't reply at all, or get a lawyer right now and instruct him that all correspondence regarding this
    matter must be sent to Lawyer X. I think it's a waste of time and money to do anything at all until you get a letter from a lawyer, and I think it's potentially dangerous to send ANY kind of direct response, either before or after the other party gets a lawyer involved.

    Pheezer on
    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
  • MrMonroeMrMonroe Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Pheezer is absolutely correct in every way

    I would not respond at all and I would not seek counsel until you get a letter from his lawyer

    counsel is expensive

    MrMonroe on
  • Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA
    edited July 2010
    SoZo wrote: »
    Today she got an email from a man claiming that her designs were similar to his and that her business name was copyright already and that if she didn't stop selling her designs that he would pursue legal action against her.

    Ignore it unless she receives an actual cease & desist (or the UK equivalent). Just getting an e-mail from some random guy means absolutely nothing.

    Edit: And don't waste money lawyering up until you receive a communication from his lawyer. Wouldn't be a bad idea to trademark your name now though.

    Bionic Monkey on
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