Calgary

Calgary designer 'sorry' to see Indigo selling very similar design

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 don't own the word sorry but it was pretty blatant they just stole the design and tweaked it slightly'

Shauna Hartsook says the hand-lettered 'sorry' she designed three years ago (white text on black pillow at top right) is remarkably similar to one for sale at Indigo (red text on white pillow at bottom right) and she wants an apology from the Toronto-based bookstore chain. (Submitted by Shauna Hartsook/Fairgoods)

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.

She's got Instagram posts to prove it.

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."

The three 'sorry' products on the top are from Calgary-based Fairgoods, while the three on the bottom are from Indigo. (Submitted by Shauna Hartsook/Fairgoods)

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.

Marvin Ryder, an assistant professor of marketing at McMaster University, says demonstrating Indigo copied Fairgoods design can be challenging. (Submitted by Marvin Ryder)

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Bell

Web Journalist

David Bell has been a professional, platform-agnostic journalist since he was the first graduate of Mount Royal University’s Bachelor of Communications in Journalism program in 2009. His work regularly receives national exposure.

now