When freelance furniture designer Simone Brewster designed a cabinet for Swoon, she didn’t hear anything back so naturally assumed that Swoon Editions were not going to use her designs. However, when she discovered that Swoon had, not only used her designs without permission, but had put them into production and were actively marketing them, she got angry.
Brewster instructed lawyers but the first offer from Swoon would not even have covered her legal fees. So, as many SME designers now do, she decided she had to make the design community know about the unfairness and ask their opinion. In a resounding social media response which went viral, Swoon Editions stepped up to the mark and apologised unreservedly.
Read the full account here in the Dezeen story
Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID said, “Swoon co-founder Debbie Williamson should have known better than to flaunt the law. It was made quite clear in the 2014 IP Act (which was a campaign that ACID had spearheaded). This resulted in clarity about the ownership of freelance designs and is now crystal clear. IP ownership, unless otherwise agreed, remains with the freelance designer not the commissioner. Simone’s only option was to turn to social media after the paltry Swoon offer failed. Swoon, presumably realised, quickly, the potential damage to their brand and stepped up to the mark and made an appropriate offer which Simone accepted.
Swoon’s attitude up until then did not demonstrate corporate social responsibility, IP ethics and compliance with the law and respect for those who bring design innovation to their door. It can take years to build up a successful brand like Swoon but can take moments to destroy if they behave badly. Clearly the design community thought they had behaved badly”
Further information which clarifies the law here
Ms Williamson, Swoon directors and other retailers who sail close too the wind should also be aware that the intentional infringement of a registered design is now a crime and punishable by up to 10 years. Individual directors are also liable.
For furniture designers who would like to know more about creating a proactive IP strategy and design protection, ACID is holding a webinar on Thursday 23rd July at 11am.