In our latest Member Focus we want to share a fascinating insight into UK designer, Em Royston of Maid in China & sister company We are Chasing Threads. Em’s Maid in China work is inspired by the tradition of afternoon tea with all the fun of the fun-fair with her crafty pieces, available through We are Chasing Threads, inspired by a life-long obsession with crafting and customisation. All the inside stories of our amazingly diverse membership all have one common theme – protecting their intellectual property to achieve growth and putting IP at the heart of their business strategy. Em Royston is no exception!
When and why did you first start creating your products/designs?
I studied Design back at University before working for other UK design companies in roles, from sales to brand management. During this time, I designed a few products for other companies, including the Cross Stitch Map for Suck UK. I learnt a huge amount about running a business during this time, and always knew I wanted to start my own brand. After 6 years in the industry I took the leap to quit my job and develop and manufacture products myself. With one range following on from the Cross Stitch Map (combining my love of stitching and travel!) and the other a collection of Circus inspired quirky tea ware.
Did you have any knowledge of intellectual property when you started your business?
Yes, it was something I remember being taught about a little at University, and I became a member of ACID shortly after graduating to protect my designs being shown at New Designers back in 2010. I always had the plan in the back of my mind to start a company so knew that protecting new ideas would be important. I think when you are starting out it is natural to be nervous exposing ideas that you may want to later develop.
The design companies I then went on to work for, included ACID members Suck UK and Innermost, where I saw first-hand the importance of IP protection as both companies had to deal with rip-off products. Before that, programmes like Dragons Den lead me to believe that registering or protecting designs is incredibly expensive and difficult and not worthwhile – not a great message to send to aspiring designers and inventors!
Which ACID Membership services have you used and how have you benefited from being a Member?
When I was a recent graduate, the display of the ACID logo at exhibitions was the most important. For the first few years of having a company and launching products, it was a comfort to know I could get support if I came against any IP issues. I have always used the ACID logo for my website and trade shows, and the IP Databank where I upload all new products before launching them publicly (or even showing previews on social media). Recently, I had the unpleasant experience of finding copies of our best-selling Stitch Passport Cover on Etsy – and was able to file a report of IP infringement, using the ACID IP Databank as evidence of my designs.
Have you brought anything new to the marketplace recently that you would like to share?
Our recent launch was a collection of Star Sign accessories, where you can stitch your own zodiac sign to personalise the items. All our products encourage people to slow down, use their hands and pick up a needle and thread – this has been something particularly relevant now with so many stuck at home and looking for new projects.
What is the best aspect of ACID Membership for your business?
It can be scary knowing exactly what rights you have as a designer and having new ideas but not knowing how much to invest in protecting them. ACID membership gives me confidence that I can take action against any IP issues that arise – from any and all products – and that I wouldn’t be fighting alone. Of course, often I hope I don’t need to use the benefits but it was a huge relief to have that support in my recent challenge.
What advice would you offer to a new designer?
Get your products out there and don’t be too precious about keeping ideas secret or under wraps until the last minute. I was nervous about having my ideas ripped off at the expense of getting feedback, and just getting on with making it happen! Using the services of ACID membership lessens the risk so, if you can become a member from the start, all the more reason to launch your designs as soon as you can.
ACID values the support of its members to enable it to campaign for design law reform. Do you have any messages for Government/Policy Makers on IP issues?
I have seen previous companies where I worked, deal with rip-off products alone – unless willing to undergo expensive legal proceedings. It feels as though the law is extremely complex around this area and all the risk is with the designer/manufacturer. Giving the designer more power and straight forward information to deal with copies, but also a more stable way to deter imitations in the first place, would be hugely beneficial.
Click the links below to read more about Em Royston of Maid in China & We are Chasing Threads, read also about Em’s success in taking down infringing products on Etsy