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Jewelry line stolen, copyright infringement


#1

[Edit]

The name of the third person in this story has been masked

[/Edit]

this story is outrageous especially for a past president of SNAG. I
have full proof and documentation of this story but Ill try to give
you the short version.

In 1997 with the encouragement of Carrie Adell my beloved friend, I
researched and created a full jewelry collection based on collecting
birch tree twigs from my front yard and casting them in gold and
setting opals and fine I am still working on this
collection after all these years. But back then I was looking for
galleries which might do well with my style. I combed all the
jewelry mags and published images at the time to satisfy my need to
bring something really unique to market.

There was a wonderful story written about me in Lapidary Journal in
june of 1999. /It was/ about me and my journey with this work. It was
titled Sticks and Stones by Annie Osburn. In March of 1997 I took
the collection with me to the SNAG conference.

I showed the work to [snip]. He loved it and asked If I would send it
to him for the following summer season on consignment.

I said sure… And I sent it out in May. I did not hear a word
until the following October when ALL the work was returned with a
short note saying sorry that the work just was not a style his
clientele seemed to respond too. May be next year… I was pretty
disappointed because it did so very well for me in my shop and in a
few other places I had positioned it in including Aaron Faber in NYC

I began to specialize in setting fantastic opals in the work which I
was getting from Eagle Creek Opals…Bill Kasso. This made the work
particularly unique because Bill has a cutting style which is very
special as well as the material he mines. And I am an opal freak! The
next season some very close friends who go up to [snip] to sail in
the summer went into his shop. They called me and told me how happy
they were to see my work there. I was a bit taken aback and looked up
[snip]'s web site and low and behold there was “my work” with the
same designs and opal gems he had purchased from Bill Kasso… Bill
told me about the sales to [snip].

I wrote a note to [snip] and told him Im not sure If I should be
flattered that he needed to copy my work or mad as heck.

His answer to me was “well lots of jewelers use twigs” That was not
the case then. I spent too much time researching. So as of today he
is publishing my “story” as his own (with a small twist) about the
birch tree twig work.

and continues to call this work his… So much for his ethics. I
don’t have the $ for a legal battle.

But I will never forget. Mr. [snip] is laughing all the way to the
bank.


#2

Hi there,

Annoying I’m sure but that’s the potential hazard when you design and
make beautiful work. Well done for not descending into bitterness.
There is enough to go around and him stealing your creativity just
tells us all what snake he is.

Take care
Leza


#3

Dear Michy; what a tragic tale. It makes it mandatory for us to
photograph our creations, and just set back on the disc with all of
the photos. Maybe you could have mailed yourself amemory card from
your camera with your work on it, and that is what I do.

My tale is not as tragic, I lived in a small community, and I cringe
when I see one woman walk around looking, she takes others ideas,
and recreates them with a slight change, and then markets them at
our largest hotel gift shop that she manages.

At church we were studying Tender Mercy, and this is what i think
these people need. How very tragic that someone is so empty and
barren that they have to steal ideas from someoneelse. I can feel
pity for them, but I do not have to like them or what they do.

Your work will flourish on its own. You have drive, you have a great
idea, and you have God on your side. Stealing is not acceptable,
even when it is just an idea.

Remember…pictures, mail yourself your photo
card…a poor man’s copy write would have really helped.
Remember that the post mark is your goal, and then i put it in a zip
lock baggie, with a note of what it is on the outside, and just file
it away. I have dozens for different things, and so far i have never
needed one.


#4

sorry to read the story, do you know any lawyers who do conditional
fee work? Sometimes you can get insurance to cover such legal fees
but it is not cheap.

Nick Royall


#5

I am so sorry to hear about the outright theft of your style and
designs. There really isn’t much you can do legally. Although you
cannot publish the person’s name on the Orchid website, you might
consider sending it off line, so that other s will be aware of the
practice of this person, and will avoid sending any of their work to
him.

It is quite possible that he has done this with the work of other
jewelers, and people need to be warned about him.

Alma


#6

Micky Roof,

This is disgraceful! This should not happen! This makes me furious! I
think there is something you can do about this.

Two things come to mind. First, IMHO, SNAG needs to know this and I
have copied Dana Singer and Harriete Estel Berman on this email.
Dana is the Executive Director of SNAG. Harriete Estel Berman is an
active SNAG member and works with Professional Guidelines which may
be helpful. Perhaps Dana and Harriete could support an article in
Announcements From SNAG on copyright infringement.

Second, WSJ had a recent article about “Fashion’s Copycats” by Ray
A. Smith. There is a fashion blogger, Julie Zerbo, who started the
blog " Fashion Law" eight months ago. “Ms. Zerbo is one of a breed of
fashion bloggers scouring the Internet and stories for instances of
similarities or outright copying”. She is a second-year law student
at Catholic University of America. She plans to make Fashion Law her
career.

Ms. Zerbo recently wrote a blog about a bracelet designed by small
New York-based designer Pamela Love after a bracelet featured in
Chanel’s Fall 2012 runway show bore a “striking resemblance” to Ms.
Love’s Fall 2011 collection. Ms. Zerbo looked at both images online
and posted the item with side-by-side pictures. Ms. Zerbo’s following
is small so she alerted the larger Fashionista blog which linked to
Zerbo’s post. A few days later, Chanel issued a statement saying it
decided not to offer the bracelets in question for sale “out of
respect for the concerns raised.” After the “Chanel flap” Glamour.com
called Ms. Zerbo “the brainy blogger”. It was a coup for Ms. Zerbo
according to WSJ writer, Ray A. Smith.

Ms. Zerbo, according to the WSJ article, sees her role as a defender
of small designers, who may not have the financial ability to take
an alleged copycat to court. Micky, I think you should offer Ms.
Zerbo the opportunity to blog about your copyright infringement.

Maybe this thread will be helpful to many Orchid members world-wide.

Best regards, MA


#7

What a terribly frustrating story.

Let’s all learn a lesson from this. Obtaining a copyright is so
simple and inexpensive. You can do it on line and instead of paying
for each item, you can copyright an entire collection at once.

I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. It’s highway robbery. In
case you do have legal grounds to sue him, there are legal
organizations and individual lawyers that do pro bono work. I would
look into it.

If you choose not to take legal action, you might want to forward
this story to the local newspaper and at least expose him for what he
is, should they choose to run it.


#8

Mary,

I do feel you have made excellent posts regarding this sad situation.
Many reach one another solely via Orchid and do not venture farther
on the Web. Some on the other hand are active bloggers and are aware
of the strength of it all. Create an informative blog and develop a
reputation of integrity and creativity.

Were such a situation to occur, blog it well and post it. Then put a
few teasers such as why is “big name store” selling knock-offs of my
last line? Then leave a link to your blog and ask others to if on
Twitter, to “retweet”, then again publicly thank those individuals
for doing so. The ripple widens. If it is a big name store wanting
to protect it’s reputation, they will have a Media Expert scouring
the internet for any mention, and if it is found to be negative,
there will be follow up.

A good friend has seen direct stealing from some fellow artists web
site, photos and captions and then selling similar items. She has
gone directly to the aggrieved, who was totally unaware. Several
times, BTW.

Micky could indeed Blog this and then post the link to the blog. The
name will be well known in short order.

IMHO,
Thanks,
Terrie

Teresa Masters


#9
Remember.........pictures, mail yourself your photo card.....a poor
man's copy write would have really helped. Remember that the post
mark is your goal, and then i put it in a zip lock baggie, with a
note of what it is on the outside, and just file it away. I have
dozens for different things, and so far i have never needed one. 

There is no such thing as a poor man’s copyright, aside from it being
a too often repeated myth.

Correct about Copyright is available heRe:
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep7z5s

mds


#10

This problem is not an easy one to help with. Its the down side of
the capitalist, free enterprise western system of business. Ie you
survive by your own efforts, and the strongest get the top the
quickest. I think you would have a problem if.

he was in the same town as you, and was selling to the same outlets/
clients that you were.

However, all is not lost, when ever you negotiate with a customer,
as you have nothing to hide, youll have nothing to fear.

You can in all openess say these are you designs researced and done
in 2000,or when ever, and any others similar are stolen designs and
not your original work. in otherwords a knock off.

I dont see why your also not laughing all the way to the bank. They
sound really beautiful. You have been too trusting in your fellow
artisans. If you only sold your work retail, then anyone copying it
would have to either buy it or start from scratch.

we all take that risk when putting our work on display for sale. Ive
given this some thought on how it might affect me with my work. Im am
shure a competent and experienced maker could copy my work, but to do
it so they could make aprofit from their time, I very much doubt.
They would need the same equipment I have developed and the same
technical path to do so. Thats valuable trade knowhow and stays ith
me. There are upsides to the western way, take Audi, they were the
first to use day running high intensity led lights. Now you get them
on most top end cars. They have been copied because there a safety
feature. Even if it was their idea theres nothing they can do to stop
others copying this


#11

I cast some twigs over 20 years ago, made a few pieces. I cast for
other jewelry artists and one of them saw the twigs and asked if she
could buy some to use. Over the last 6-8 years this person developed
a small line and the twig jewelry is part of it. I never saw Mickey
Roof’s work, and I know my friends has not seen it.

If you cast a twig and bend it into a ring or bracelet, I am
thinking based on how many people have done something like that it is
too common to protect by a copyright. I do not think it is really a
design that was created, it is a copy if something found in nature.

I would use an example, if you start making butterfly jewelry and
want to sue others that make butterfly jewelry so they will stop, I
do not think you can stop everyone from making butterfly jewelry, or
dogs or cats, or turtles, snakes, moons, stars…

Someone once threatened to sue me to stop me as I made some
Wellendorfgoddes sterling jewelry pendants. This person thought she
owned the rights to produce goddess designs even though they were
copies of pieces in museums.

Google sterling silver twig jewelry, there are few people doing it.
Not the most imaginative things ever done.

If you carved a twig and someone molded and cast one of your
creations, you might be able to do something about that.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#12

Copyright doesn’t work if you don’t have the cash to protect it.

Even if you do there are some governments (who shall remain
nameless), that actively steal patents and copyrighted material, they
don’t give a tinkers.

As soon as a design leaves your hands it will be taken. A lot of
people in this world steal.

Mobile phones are banned from our student exhibitions, because one
visitor was overheard to say “that design will look good in our
window” whilst taking a happy snap, and they were industry
professionals! Still smoked about it.

Regards Charles A.


#13
We had somewhat of a similar style. I could prove
mine and show back through years of notebooks and work..actually
years before she ever picked up a torch, that mine was as original to
me as my handwriting is. Sadly she told the jury that I had copied
her work and I was not accepted on those grounds that my work was
"too derivative of others work".

Bethe from Cape Cod’s story is an excellent example of how messy and
wrong this sort of thing can get. Federal courts have jurisdiction
on intellectual property law. Artisan guilds and groups like SNAG or
Orchid have no legal authority to act or rule on these disputes.
Bethe was allegedly barred from participation by a adversarial
competitor without any due process, fair or impartial investigation.

I remember years ago when I was exhibiting regularly with the ACE
shows at Baltimore and West Springfield that there was constant
agitation for the show management to do more about "derivative"
work. On several occasions it was stated that the management had been
advised by their lawyers that they should not do that. They did not
elaborate very much. What makes sense is that if you make a
judgement that one persons work is derivative of another’s and the
consequences of that decision causes harm or loss, that this process
must be thorough, with both sides given ample opportunity to argue,
show evidence and defend themselves. The place that happens is in a
court of law. That is not what happens when one person says someone
else ripped-off their designs and fights their battle in the court of
public opinion or behind closed doors in the art jury room.

Stephen Walker


#14

I got the names of the past SNAG presidents and located one who
sells twig jewelry on line and in his gallery. I saw pictures of his
twig work, and there is absolutely no question but that he has
stolen, twig for twig, the designsof Micky. The work is blatantly
identical.

Therefore, itwould seem that there are good grounds for a lawsuit.
Unfortunately there is a big drawback. The gallery owner’s claim is
that “many people use twigs.” This is quite true, and when I took a
class in casting, we used twigs, and other items found in the
garden…

However, althoughmany jewlers use twigs, there is a vast difference
between how they use them. Micky’s designs are unique, and what has
been stolen is not her use of twigs, but the way in which she used
them.Her designs andcreativity have been stolen. The big question is
that if legal means were taken in order to get restitution, would
the judge, whomayor may not have knowledge of jewelry making
techniques be aware that the issue is not twigs per se, but how they
are used.

This whole matter is very sad. Micky has worked hard to develop her
own unique style of working with twigs, only to have a greedy
inscrupulous person steal her ideas.

Alma


#15

SNAG stands strongly against copyright infringement as a rule;
however, it is not up to us to make a final call on specific
disputes. SNAG is not police, judge or jury. This situation is truly
unfortunate. However, despite this person being a former SNAG
president, the circumstances have nothing to do with SNAG and it
would be inappropriate for us to comment on any of the specifics.

Sue Amendolara
President
Society of North American Goldsmiths


#16
I saw pictures of his twig work, and there is absolutely no
question but that he has stolen, twig for twig, the designs of
Micky. The work is blatantly identical. 

I looked at both sites, and I see similar, not exact copies. Using
twigs is a design motif. How could two people use twigs and replicate
how twigs appear in nature and not look similar?

I am making a ring with a twig motif and the basic structure is
similar, and I have never seen the work of either before, so from the
replies so far I can assume if someone saw what I made I too would be
accused of copying Mickey. Except, my design has leaves…

If I made a design using round wire in a random pattern similar to
Mickey’s bracelet, not exact, similar, would it be ripping off her
idea?

Look on Etsy and you can find some similar items in cuff and bangle
bracelets.

Google “Elizabeth and James twig cuff bracelet Neiman Marcus” to see
how silly this is.

I repeat from another of my posts, unless a mold was made of a Mickey
Roof piece, it is a similar motif, not duplication.

The idea has been done before. I have an artist in my gallery who
uses twigs.

That the difference between using a motif and copying a design is
not understood by some on this forum is quite disappointing to me.

That Mickey thinks she was copied might not be true. I do not know
who had created work with the motif first, not that it matters.

That Mickey is having an issue is clear, and that she is getting
support is clear, that it is appropriate is not. Seems like a bit of
slander to me…

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#17

Thank you Richard. Do you remember when, back in the summer of 2006
this came up, and Daniel Spirer said this about Copyright
Infringement:

https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/when-your-work-gets-ripped
Then there's the issue of original designs. I've been a jeweler
for over 35 years, and during that time I can honestly say that I
have only see about 12 "original" designs created during that
period. I mean something that is truly unique to an individual
designer who went in a completely new direction. Everything else
is built on old work. To some extent this is unavoidable. There
are limitations to what someone can physically wear on their
fingers. There are limitations to how many things you can do with
a circle. There is always going to be some overlapping and there
is also more than 2000 years of jewelry work and designs that
have already been done before you make up that "new" design. Can
two people make up the same design independently of each other.
Absolutely. It happens all the time. Look at the current
"fashion" of circle pins. How creative can you possibly be with a
circle in a pin? Sure you can set some stones in it. You can add
some pearls. You can put on some squiggles. But you know
something it's still a circle pin. If David Yurman makes it he'll
do it out of twisted wire (something the Celts did more than 1000
years ago), but it's still just a circle. The difference is that
Yurman has huge pockets and a team of lawyers working for him
and he can sue the pants off of you if he chooses to (that, mind
you, is for copying a design he copied from people who are
already dead). But if all the "designers" decide circle pins are
hot and they are going to make them up do you really think there
isn't going to be some overlap? 

Then there's the issue of derivative work. When I was very young
I did craft shows and there was a jeweler's work that I admired.
One of his "techniques" was to cut out a piece of silver in the
middle of a piece of sheet for a ring and solder a different
colored metal behind the cut out and repousse it from behind so
it puffed out. Neat idea. As I found out later not entirely
original (it had been done before although I don't know whether
he had seen it or not). But I was into making repousse/chased
faces. And I realized that you could do the same thing he was
doing only do a face in it instead of just a lumpy piece of
metal. So for a few years I made rings with repousse faces
sticking up through them. Was that stealing his design? He never
put anything like a face (or any other realistic design) on his
they were just somewhat lumpy looking. Over time I went in
different directions (although I still use faces) and they aren't
in my repertoire anymore. But the reality is that when you go
back in time far enough you see similar rings with faces. I
hadn't seen them at the time. So was my idea original because I
hadn't seen it before? Was it original if I borrowed a technique?
Frankly, I don't care as I agree with the comments that claim
most work is derivative in some way. 

For those of you who think you have an absolutely, never before
done, completely original jewelry design, I first would urge you
to research thoroughly the entire history of jewelry and see if
anything like it has been done before. Then let me know and I'll
add you to my incredibly short list of designers who have
actually come up with  "original" designs.

#18

The name of this crook should be available to all of us. If Ganoksin
cannot publish it because of liability concerns perhaps you can let
us know individually. I for one would like to send him a hot letter.

john


#19
However, despite this person being a former SNAG president, the
circumstances have nothing to do with SNAG and it would be
inappropriate for us to comment on any of the specifics. 

Fair comment, but is the transgressor still using his SNAG
accreditations for his own benefit.

SNAG is a really cool organisation, but might it be a case of, guilt
by association, public opinion, being tarred with the same brush?
That’s what would be bothering me most if I was in SNAG’s position.

Regards Charles A.


#20

I hate that this happened to you Micky. I’ve been there and I know
how it feels. But the bottom line is that there really isn’t a whole
lot you can do about it. Pursuing legal action might make you feel
better in the short run, but I really do believe you would have a
hard time convincing a judge or jury that what you have made is so
new, original and unconventional that someone producing similar
items would be infringing on a copyright, especially considering that
you probably never properly and legally copyrighted it in the first
place. Like Richard, I took a casting class in 1972 in which we
spent the third day gathering and gating up bugs and twigs. My Dad
had been doing it for decades before then. Legal action will most
likely result in nothing more than raising your blood pressure and
lightening your wallet. The only real winners in this kind of
litigation are usually the lawyers.

I would strongly advise that you very carefully consider the
consequences of following some of the advice given here concerning
making a major public issue of this before you start posting names on
forums whose moderators are less inclined to help protect you through
the use of judicious editing of names and places. Having a public
temper tantrum may feel good for a while, but it may very well end up
reflecting much more badly on you than on Mr. X in the minds of many
people reading it. It can have much more devastating and far-reaching
consequences as well. Posting comments that can negatively affect
someone’s livelihood (and in addition, about something that is
potentially so difficult to prove in court) on a public forum can
easily end up with the poster being on the wrong end of a defamation
law suit. Not only can it happen, it does happen. Frequently. And the
awards the courts order are often huge.

Never forget that when you post something negative about someone on a
public forum, it’s there forever. You can’t edit it or take it back,
nor can you deny it or easily explain it away with a “well, I was
angry at the time your Honor” kind of defense. So say Thank You to
Hanuman for helping to save you from yourself, at least on this
forum.

I think there is only one thing that you can do to avoid being
knocked off in the future, and it is by far the best solution to the
knock-off problem, imho.

Make jewelry requiring such a high level of skill that anyone that
has the ability to copy it doesn’t need to.

After my first experience like yours, I accepted the reality that if
someone can copy my work to the point that the copies are recognized
as my work, then my work just flat isn’t good enough.

Let it go, Micky. It’s probably gonna happen again sooner or later
and it stinks, but you have no control over what other people do.
All you can control are your own actions and reactions. I think in
your case, there are likely very few positive outcomes if you
continue to react publicly in such a negative manner. But there are a
ton of bad things that can come your way if you air too much of your
bitterness and frustration and tie it to a specifically named
individual in public. If you do decide to let it all hang out, make
damn sure you can physically and undeniably prove every single word
(and then some) in a court of law. Given the litigious nature of our
society now, you just might have to.

Dave Phelps