Calgary designer 'sorry' to see Indigo selling very similar design
'We don't own the word sorry but it was pretty blatant they just stole the design and tweaked it slightly'
The art designer and co-founder of a two-person online gift company was "sorry"' to see merchandise at Indigo emblazoned with a design that was strikingly similar to her own hand-drawn art, and she's looking for an apology, among other remedies.
"We just wanted people to know that this isn't right," Shauna Hartsook told CBC News on Friday.
Hartsook says she created a line of merchandise more than three years using a word stereotypically overused by Canadians: Sorry.
The Calgary-based company, Fairgoods, put the word on T-shirts, pins, patches, pillows and key chains. Hartsook says the pins represent one of their best-selling products both online and in stores that carry it around the world.
Hartsook says she was surprised to see a handful of products at an Indigo store (and online) that looked shockingly similar.
"I was pretty much angry when I saw it. It's just another example of these big companies ripping off smaller artists and designers," Hartsook said.
"We don't own the word sorry, but it was pretty blatant that they just stole the design and tweaked it slightly."
But proving that — says an assistant professor of marketing at McMaster University — could be a problem.
"I looked at the picture and the script for the two items are nearly identical," Marvin Ryder told CBC News.
"That said, I'm not sure there is much legal protection here. You can't patent a symbol, font or word."
Ryder says you can trademark the combination of the word, font and colour, but Hartsook says she didn't do that.
"The designer could try taking the producer of the goods to court, but to really win the case, the designer would need to prove that the idea was stolen," Ryder said, adding that's the hard part.
Hartsook says her company sent Indigo a cease-and-desist letter this week, but they haven't heard back from the company so far.
She says she's not asking for a lot from the Canadian bookstore chain.
"I guess just acknowledge that they copied it, stop selling the products or maybe we can negotiate some sort of payment out of it," Hartsook said.
"We'd love for them to say 'sorry' or apologize."
CBC News reached out to Indigo Friday afternoon. In an emailed reply, a spokesperson said the company was looking into the matter.
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