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From the Newsdesk

Online Infringement – 8 Years On, Has Anything Changed?

Case Study – Phyllis Cohen of Face Lace

In 2016, Phyllis Cohen of Face Lace was part of an ACID member meeting with the then IP Minister, Viscount Younger, to explain theirs and other’s challenges with the increasing difficulties faced by design-led organisations trying to access take down to remove copies of their designs being used and sold illegally (i.e., without her permission) online on such platforms as eBay, Amazon and AliExpress. Fast track 8 years and during a recent visit to her constituency MP, John Cryer with ACID CEO Dids Macdonald, Phyllis explained that little has changed.

Phyllis explained to John Cryer MP’s team:

  • The debilitating cost, time and stress caused to small manufacturers like Face Lace to take down sellers on online platforms infringing, our name, designs, and imagery. 
  • Artists of small niche businesses (which the UK excels in and yields a global reputation for UK creativity, contributing nearly £100 billion to the UK’s GVA employing nearly 2 million in design) would much rather be innovating new products, than having to fight fruitless battles with large online platforms, to protect the livelihood of their businesses and their employees. 
  • She employs two on a full-time basis, and is committed to the excellence and ethical value, UK only manufacturing brings to our products. Therefore around twenty are employed in the production of their designs, so jobs are at risk.
  • She asked if John Cryer MP would write to the various online platforms (Amazon, eBay and Ali Express) outlining the damage caused to thousands of UK designers.
  • She has made a request that the following question is asked to the Secretary of State of for Science, Innovation and Technology

Why is it that online global platforms do not provide efficient cost and time effective means of takedown for the thousands of illegal uses of originator’s designs? Currently, unless there is unlimited finance available to pay expensive lawyers it is almost impossible for UK creators to deal with the increasing online infringement of their designs. What is being done to hold online platforms to account to demonstrate good governance in knowing who their customers are? Too many of these infringers hide behind anonymity. It would appear that, for example, an agreed Code of Conduct with Amazon has broken down.

The failure by online platforms to provide easy means of access to take down of illegally used images and offers from those who steal original design is lamentable. Pressure needs to be made for much more accountability around knowing who their business customers are and stronger regulations to lift the anonymity that too many of these infringers hide behind. If a lone, micro or SME designer cannot afford legal professionals or lawyers, then it is a long, debilitating journey to access take down. Then, of course, there are the frustrations that the moment you successfully remove illegal sites, another pops up and the process starts again. As Phyllis Cohen said, “The stress of having to consistently fight my corner is having a detrimental effect on what I do best, designing!”

Despite registering all her designs and trade marks, without exception, all the online platforms she tried to engage with just complicated the matter by requests for further, time consuming information requests. On looking at the timeline of all Phyllis’ requests with eBay, Amazon, and Ali Express, it proved impossible to stop the illegal sites.

About Phyllis Cohen and the History of Face Lace

From the late 80s, when asked to Key the Make-up of Fashion shows for Zandra Rhodes, Phyllis created her first hand-made makeup stickers to incorporate the patterns of Zandra’s silkscreen fabrics into the model’s make-up quickly. In the 90’s Phyllis returned to art college to research how we perceive the Beauty of the human face. She has written for many publications to expand the concept of beauty. Phyllis is in great demand as an Educator, and has given Masterclasses in the USA, Singapore, France, and the UK. Other famous names she has worked with are Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Adam Lambert, the late David Bowie and many more.

Please help share your tips and ideas for easier take-down. ACID is in renewed conversations with SnapDragon IP to make their services available to members and from a policy perspective, make representations to government to call online platforms to account to adhere to Codes of Conduct which have bite, demonstrate fair play and comply with  the basics of corporate social responsibility for IP; respect, ethics and compliance.

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