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From the Newsdesk

ACID Member Sally Burrows Story – A Case Study on the Effects of Copying

New ACID member Sally Burrows, owner and designer of Pip and Elwood, is a greetings card and gift designer. The sole illustrator of designs, Sally started designing for friends and family after she had her twins. As with all great designers, she saw gaps in the marketplace and designed new ideas based on what she found to be missing. Her business was born from the enjoyment of creating laughter and love with her designs.

Sadly, through the stress of attempting to deal with infringements online, Sally felt disheartened with designing. After a short hiatus, Sally rallied herself to regain the enjoyment of being creative and continued designing. Though she is still finding copies of her designs, she is taking steps to become knowledgeable about her intellectual Property (IP) rights and receiving support by joining the ACID community.

Sally Burrows, owner of Pip and Elwood

In her words, Sally’s story:

My design career happened by a very happy accident eight years ago. I had to give up my full-time stressful job when my twins were born. A loss of income and time on my hands (when they slept), meant I started making small cards and gifts for friends and family. I’d draw ideas based on what I thought they’d like, things I couldn’t see in shops myself. The cards were met with joy and praise, so my best friend suggested I sell them online. I loved creating and drawing my designs and decided that this could be a new career. With little experience I learnt on the job and with the success of some of my designs came, what I’d never even considered, the copycats. 

My first taste of this was an email from a prosecco business. While looking at my cards, she recognised a design she’d brought at a trade fair that year and contacted me to let me know. Someone had stolen my EXACT design – printed thousands and sold them at wholesale. I was shocked, hurt, and confused. How was this allowed to happen?

My message to the seller was met with a simple ‘It’s my design, not yours’, which floored me. It was mine; my own hands have held the pen that’s drawn that design. I had sat up late at night, working long hours while my children slept, to create my own drawings. I knew this was my work; but how could I prove it?

Thankfully a legal friend helped me write a simple cease and desist letter and that was enough for them to suddenly accept it was my design, they apologised profusely and asked me to not take it any further, not that I even knew how to at the time. In fact, shortly after this I took a break from my business, as I just found it too distressing to spend hours drawing and thinking up ideas only for them to be stolen. My confidence was knocked.

Fast forward a few years and during the pandemic, a few people reached out to me and asked me why I didn’t sell my cards anymore and I decided to start designing again. Many lockdown evenings were spent thinking up new and exciting ideas and experimenting with new styles. Within days my business was back, with a new excitement for the future. I stopped looking for people that copied me and focused on doing what I loved – designing and making cards. However, with that success my designs were copied yet again, but this time – not just as cards – but mugs and t-shirts. I wasn’t looking out for them, but this time people came to me, and they were shocked I wasn’t doing anything about it. I felt helpless. 

I appreciate there are trends and styles which are popular, and you can’t ‘own’ a phrase i.e., Happy Birthday, but these people were using the ‘exact’ design I’d hand-drawn – in addition to the many, many people who had taken the wording, style, and colour, making their own ‘version’.

I started again to investigate how I can protect my designs. Lots of people who I felt had infringed upon me and I’d felt brave enough to contact, denied any wrongdoing. I then found ACID. As my business grows and my designs become more well known, I wanted to know my rights and make sure my designs were recorded as my own.

I am very happy to become part of the ACID family. Making sure I am protecting my designs is just as an important part of my work, as designing them.

Thank you, Sally, for sharing your story. 

Sally’s most copied design

ACID are pleased that Sally has become an ACID member, and delighted that she has decided to carry on designing. We hear all too often from members, how the stress and debilitating effects of being copied interrupts their creative energy. But it can also cause detrimental mental health issues, loss of income, and in some cases, losing a business entirely. No designer should have to utter the words, “I no longer feel like designing”, due to an infringement and the toll it can take to fight back.

You can see Sally Burrows’ Etsy shop here and her Instagram here.

If you would like to sign the ACID IP Charter to support the ethos of respect, ethics, and compliance in the design industry, you can do so here.

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