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Case study: These please but no copycats!

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 16 March 2016

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After the revival of vintage and the increase of interest in the second-hand furniture market, there has been a large amount of people going it alone and starting their own business. With the aid of sites such as eBay, Etsy and Not on the High Street, selling your own goods online has never been easier.

This is how online company These Please who specialises in decorative doorknobs, handles and coat hooks first started trading. By exposing yourself on the internet however, it leaves all the designs you have worked hard on open for potential copycats to take.

Ashley Flett, managing director of These Please explains their position in relation to IP and how they secured further protection, “My wife and I started out selling other people’s products on eBay, mainly home furnishings, including door knobs. We liked them a lot but the only designs we could find were plain and boring. So, because we couldn’t buy what we wanted to sell, my wife started designing a few of them.”

Initially to protect these designs, the couple relied on copyright and approached anyone who took any photos of the products from their website and issued them with a copyright notice.

While this is sufficient to protect the photographs, there was a better way to protect the designs themselves, that they only discovered when speaking to the UK Intellectual Property Office.  Ashley says “When we continued to see copies of our products being sold without our permission, we spoke to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). They suggested registering our designs.”.

By registering a design, a company can protect the appearance of their product. The appearance can include a colour, shape, pattern, texture or the material it is made from. An application for a registered design is a very cost effective way of gaining protection as it costs £60 for a single application, and a further £40 for any other designs attached to the single application.

This was very beneficial for These Please who had a number of designs they wanted to protect.

With their new found knowledge, all designs were registered by These Please. Now a number of years on from the initial conversation, Ashley and his wife automatically register any new design and spoke highly of it benefits. He said “The design registration has been fantastic. It has allowed us a platform to develop and expand knowing no one in the UK can import, copy or sell our product designs that are registered to us. It’s been a low investment with a high value. We couldn’t run the business effectively without it.”

He followed giving this advice to anyone unsure about designs “I would strongly recommend protecting your IP if you’re an online player and you’ve designed a product that’s key to your business. The whole world is online and if it becomes popular, someone will copy it. If you haven’t registered your design, then you’ve got a problem as you can’t do it retrospectively”.

For any more information about this way of preventing any worries about copycats, get in touch with Lawdit.

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Ellis Sweetenham quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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