7.2.2022 | Jeanette Aurdal

How to deal with copy cats...

This is a tried and tested method to deal with those who infringe what you as a maker of unique designs feel is your intellectual property. This approach requires no legal fees or lawyers. The cost is relatively low and gives you an advantage nobody can steal from you.

The 10 year Anniversary Match Box
How much are you willing to spend fighting these people?
- A friendly lawyer

Did you know that it is nearly impossible for artisans, artists and craftspeople to protect their unique designs?

Few topics unite this group of diverse individuals more than plagiarism. If they had time, they would take to the streets and riot about it. Instead they cry themselves to sleep, exhausted trying to make sense of why they feel so violated.

The laws in this field seem to be written to ensure that we have a free market. To ensure that monopolies do not develop, where we only have one possible supplier of any one thing. The laws are there to ensure that customers have the widest possible choice. That I agree with, but they fall short in recognising the value of the idea in the first place. There is no protection for the person who worked out how to make something for the first time, who brought it to the market when people didn’t even know it was ‘a thing’.

A friendly lawyer I was looking to hire once, asked me: How much money are you willing to spend fighting these people? I stated what I thought was a very large sum, and he smiled in a way that told me that he had given this speech many times before. He told me to take that money and spend it on anything I wanted, except on him! He hinted that perhaps a holiday would be a good idea.

The Oak and Rope Coin of Quality

We were not in the mood for a holiday. Instead we went to HRM The Queen’s medal maker and asked them to make a coin we could put into our oak products to show everybody who’s the real deal!

Where the laws fall short, we have to rely on the individuals. The fact that they give room to copy cats is the flipside to us as consumers having choices.

Our youngest, who you by now might have worked out has a way with words, puts it in perspective:

Mum, it is as if you employ more people than those in our workshop. Your ideas create jobs for quite a few...
- Toby, age 10

I don’t like it, and do not understand how they can take any joy from simply regurgitating somebody else’s business. But it is their loss. They do not get to wake up every morning and do something they LOVE. They do not understand the pure joy when a new idea takes shape in my head first; when a quote inspires me to come up with a new product and goes from being a sketch on a piece of paper to reality in the workshop; then commissioned and delivered to a customer as a present for a special occasion!

Our customers seek THE BEST and THE ORIGINAL, and that is what we create. Originality can not be imitated.

We make for those who share our values and value what we do. There will always be people who are happy to settle for second best, but they are not part of our journey and certainly not part of our tribe!

Oak & Rope hand carver in action

Somebody we definitely feel is part of our tribe, is Duncan and Nessie, at This is Nessie.

Recently we "Put Our Wellies On" as part of their podcast series with the same name and went for a walk talking about the ups and downs of running a family business and about copy cats in particular.

(Click here to listen to our conversation.)

During this conversation I realised that over the years I have found my own way of dealing with the number of people who simply try to do exactly the same as we do.

By reframing the issue I have stopped loosing sleep over it. If I primarily look at myself as a designer, rather than a business owner trying to keep her business safe and her team in employment; then I am really very successful. As a designer your success is judged by how you influence the world around you and the legacy you leave behind.

Well, the fact that so many watch what we do so closely and let it dictate what they do every day, is really impressive. It puts us in the same bracket as may great designers before us.

This does not justify passing somebody else's ideas off as your own. Nor does it justify supporting those who copy others.

It is up to those of us who value authenticity to be true to these values in everything we do. Support the innovators and celebrate the originals.

What we make will always stand the test of time...

I am not sorry they stole my ideas, I am sorry they didn’t have their own.
- Nikola Tesla