What to do about competition spying?

Hi all,

Today an employee of the jewelry store across the street cruised
through our shop, trying to be discreet, but obviously pointing a
small camera/video device at our work. We were too puzzled to
question her in the brief moment that we noticed this before she
left. The question is, why? We do mostly silver, handmade by the two
of us, with fine pearls and good quality colored They do
mostly gold with tanzanite and opal inlay (!), mystic topaz, that
sort of thing. We offer a different sort of jewelry geared to a
different market, so why the james bond routine and IS THIS LEGAL?
We clearly label our work with descriptions and prices for those too
timid to ask, so the store across the street presumably now has that
info. Is this espionage or what?

We have no real proof, but we know what we saw. Does anyone have any
advice on this situation?

Douglas and Sarah


Quite possibly, they are looking to expand the selection in their
store and wanted to check you out to make sure they did not carry
items too closely related to your work. Who would want to bring in a
new line and have the customers think it’s just the same as what they
have always had across the street?..A direct approach probably
would have been good. If there were no customers in the store, you
might have just walked right up and said something like “why are you
taking pictures?” not threatening or angry or anything else, just a
very direct, open, honest question.

personally, if I were your competition across the street and I
wanted to expand my line, I would march right into your place,
introduce myself, and say “I want to carry a new line of silver in my
store, however, since we are so close geographically, I wanted to
make sure it’s not too similar to your line” This could either garner
me mu ch respect or get me a kick in the pants. It doesn’t really
matter to me though. I believe an honest, open approach is best.

On the other hand, if the girl was taking photos just to copy, what

Kim Starbard

I have had many a store come through my store but I have to admit
never with a camera. I have had them standing there taking notes and
taking pictures with their cell phones. They have also drawn
diagrams. I myself go into other jewellery stores to see what the
competition is like. You cannot be barred from going into a store
unless the owner tells you so. At least in Canada it is perfectly
okay to peruse other stores but very bad taste to photograph or take
video. But aside from that there is really nothing else you can do.
Post a sign at the door that says no photos or movies are permitted
in the store subject to immediate removal.


Well it certainly does not bode well for the integrity of the
‘jeweler’ across the street! Wow it may be legal as long as they are
not use those images in advertising but it is definately RUDE. It is
also a little on the ‘hinky’ side. Casing a joint pre-theft comes to

I would take snapshots of the outside and your interior shop with
both of you prominent and send them across the street with flowers
saying since you seemed curious as to our appearance here we are
welcome to the neighborhood

lol but I am also called a smart azz alot

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

I can only guesss that a customer of theirs told them that they want
a simmilar item that they saw in your store, and they came over to
check it out, i think you should treat them like a 12 year old who
you catch shoplifting, in your store (like a candy store) abruptly
confront them Embarras them, and angrily warn them to NEVER EVER
come near your store again, and if nescesary you will obtain a
restraining order,

also even though it is probably unlikley you can also accuse them of
casing your store for malicious purposes,tell them that that is
what you assume when people are sneaking photos etc… let them know
you will tell the police, and then they can explain to them that
they were not casing your store for a robery, dont assume that just
beacuse they are in the bussiness too that they arent capable of
endangering you in this way…Be mean to them , show no mercy

Hello Douglas and Sara,

I’d guess that you have some sort of cool design that they want to
replicate in gold. Perhaps a customer asked them if they could
reproduce the piece. They could have been interested in your
showcase display. Maybe you should just go across the street,
introduce yourselves, and ask them why they were photographing your
work. At least they’ll know that you know!

As to legality, ask a lawyer.

Let us know what you find out about this mysterious situation. I
hope they weren’t “design-napping”,

Judy in Kansas

It’s possibly legal and certainly a little bizarre given the
differences in the business. But here’s how I would approach it. I
would call the police and tell them that you believe you were being
cased by someone with theft possibly in mind. Tell them you have
seen the person working across the street but you are worried that
maybe they are setting up both stores for a robbery. Certainly
someone filming in your store could be considered a risk in terms of
this type of thing. I have called the police a number of times just
because someone spent too long looking at our cameras or security
boxes. Let the police go to the store and force the person to admit
what they were doing. They will have to produce a legitimate reason
for their actions (or else seem to be setting up your store for a
theft) to avoid any criminal liability. Then the police will be able
to let you know what they actually say they are doing. I wouldn’t
wait on this. I’d do it right away. For all you know the reason you
are giving the police is the reason they are doing it!

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Douglas and Sarah, I would be super nice to them and make a phone
call to them and ask them if they knew that their employee came to
your shop and took video of your showcases… You never know the
employee may be a jeweller and is doing his own bit of spying off his
own bat for himself.

Suggest to them that you would be happy to share and discuss your
pieces with them if this offer was reciprocated, as being neighbours
this would be fair. Also discuss the reasons why you feel you have
your customers and they have theirs and there is room for all. Maybe
one of their customers liked what you had on display and tried
explain what they wanted was on display in your shop ect ect.

If you open up the lines of communication and break the ice you may
find out the reason for the camera. I am sure it was just as you see
it, snooping but you can come out the hero in this if you go about it
in the correct manner and I am sure it will never happen again.

I am thinking you maybe get more traffic in your shop and they want
to see why. Plain and simple spying and making the poor employee do
it for them. Sad reflection on them if this is the case.

When we have our opal jewellery competition and the pieces are on
display to the public we have to be very vigilant as well as post
signs "no cameras, or phone cameras, this is a new way of getting
around the no camera signs and you can’t really ask them to leave
their cell phones outside. So we are very obvious in our watching of
the exhibited pieces and nobody, not even the owner is allowed to
take photos.

Christine in the Ridge. [printing out no camera signs for our show
last week in July.]

Espionage- I think you have been reading too many 007 novels, or
watching too much TV HOWEVER: it is indeed illegal. Yours is the
burden of proof. I would consider proceeding as follows:

Determined, and calmly walk across the street with a copy of a
standard non-competition agreement, non-disclosure forms for the
employees who photographed your work, and other forms related to
whomever had the business established in that particular location
first- and the state and local codes Re:operating a competitive
business offering the same goods and/or services within 50 feet of
another in your hand.

Ask for the owner or owners. If they are not present have the manager
call them and request they immediately come to the store to discuss a
matter of utmost importance with you. If they cannot immediately
ask what time today they can schedule a brief but important meeting,
as something urgent has occurred… Do not tell the managers anything,
and leave until the owner(s) appear. The managers may be liable too
in a separate matter though related as they perhaps instructed the
employees to act as you allege., explain that their firm’s employees
are entering your premises,infringing on your intellectual property
and are in direct copyright violation. Additionally, they are
disrupting your day-to-day operations, and blatantly photographing
your work, which is not ethical at least and criminal at most…

Invite the Owner to sign on the dotted line with a statement like “
We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. So for both of our
protection I would appreciate your signing this so we are clear, and
both covered” as you will also provide a non-competition form for
that owner.,Also garner the employees signatures that did the
photographing. Explain that you would like to have an amicable
business-like relationship with x,and these legal matters should have
been handled when x moved in…

If they refuse:

Call your counsel, or get a lawyer ( you should actually already have
one if you are in business and you have copyrighted designs, or are a
LLC,or sole proprietorship and maintain personal liability insurance)
and apprise them of the situation.Also call your insurance agent and
arrange /begin the process of filing a personal liability claim
against the store owner(s)-as their employees are accountable for the
infringement and disruption of your business, and illegal image
capture of your work. If you feel as strongly as I would, and to push
the point to absolute clarity, call the local police department and
ask them to escort you into the shop for your protection in order to
acquire the necessary signatures in light of the days events.( that
may require some cash or a fee).

Next, Make two additional copies of the security tapes you had
at the time to support your allegations. Get the witnesses to write
-in as nauseatingly thorough detail as is possible-whom they saw, at
what time, on what day,doing what, with the equipment described as
they each remember it’s appearance, and what exact items were
photographed. If I were you I would ask my witnesses to each find a
space away from the others to" allow for concentration"- this
eliminates the tendency to collaborate on a story and just gives a
more objective picture of the facts of the matter.

Immediately turn on your word processing program and make a sign for
your front door clearly stating no photography, of any kind, with
any devices for recoding images are allowed on the premises of x
business ( insert your business name) and/or within 50 feet of your
display cases. no thank yous, no anything other than a clear
business like statement in a readable font and of a highly visible
size in darkest green or black ink.If you do not have the time to do
it hire a sign maker or Kinko’s type establishment to make a couple
for you.Laminate the one to post to extend its life. Post it on the
door above the handle or at a reasonable viewing height.

Once all is collected, and assembled file a claim in small claims
court for the maximum possible in your state.Alternatively ask your
counsel to file in civil court. This should demonstrate your
interpretation of the seriousness of the matter to the other shop
owner. Small claims is just enough cash outlay to make them aware of
what their actions will bring in the future if they attempt anything
of the kind again.

If you need a copy of those forms, or if you need more info or have
questions- because there is a lot more I could say but haven’t the
time at the moment…write me off Orchid and we can arrange


EXCELLENT idea about policeinvolvement today!..I agree fully
Immediate police involvement. Let them do the investigation! Then
get non competiton forms signed and registered. I still believe its
important to have a nutual agreement on file and clarified between
your stores to prevent future issues.

I’d bet they had a customer who saw a piece in your shop but balked
at your price. (After all, they think, it’s just silver!) So they
across the street to get it done cheaper. I don’t know if it’s legal,
but it’s highly unethical! My advise is to go over there with a
camera and openly photograph their jewelry. This will help open a
dialog with them, and although it probably won’t end good, it’ll be
highly satisfying.


My advice would be to not get bent out of shape about it. If you get
confrontational and they take offense it may escalate into a feud.
That’s bad business.

Have you suffered a loss or damage from it? No, not as yet. I mean
what really happened? Someone took photos of merchandise in a place
open to the public. Any purpose one might imagine would be purely
conjecture at this point.

If you have an attorney I might ask her/him what your options are in
the event they do something nastier. But remember that enforcing your
rights costs money and energy. If they knock off a piece or two, your
damages wouldn’t really justify a lot of legal expense. If they use
the pics for some other, nefarious purpose then you’d have to look
more closely at it.

Keep this incident in mind and proportion. Before you take any
action, weigh the costs and benefits dispassionately.

Determined, and calmly walk across the street with a copy of a
standard non-competition agreement, non-disclosure forms for the
employees who photographed your work, and other forms related to
whomever had the business established in that particular location
first- and the state and local codes Re:operating a competitive
business offering the same goods and/or services within 50 feet of
another in your hand. 

I doubt they would sign it. Non-disclosure agreements are more for
contractual situations where in the course of the work sensitive
info is exchanged and discretion is pledged as a predicate to the
contract. What incentive is there for them to agree? Its not a
contract unless both parties receive value.

I don’t believe a local government has the ability to regulate
competition as described here. Liquor stores, yes. jewelry?

Pardon me saying so, but the scenario outlined is a recipe for
problems. I mean, how would YOU react to someone walking in with the
police to have you sign a document you are under no legal requirement
to sign? Wouldn’t that smack of intimidation to you? Wouldn’t you
resent it? And paying the police? The police do not get involved in
civil matters.

Make money not war.

well what about those zen based art of war philosophy thing… books…
bla bla bla etc. dont they say to keep your friends close and your
enemies closer. invite them to dinner talk size them up or down, sell
them the piece they want at a small profit. you could then have
forgotten yer wallet and stick them w/ the cheque make them ask
before you come up w/ the cash later. maybe it was an underminig
employee of thiers who did the deed perhaps the owner doesn’t know
ive had plenty of chemicaly dependand boss’s in the past. * put an
add in the paper w/ a picture of the item in question which now
miraculosly is now on sale and then thier customer will ask for thier
deposit back and there will be harsh words and bla bla bla and
problems for the across the street people. **** seriously as long as
you do the right thing by yourself and your own business you will be
fine and the customers know you by your actions this business is
built on honesty and trust and karma charges intrest and if you can
afford the karma then borrow a paintball gun and enjoy a momentary
episode of satisfaction on a sunday night.


My Point is immediate action works best for me,and my clients in
similar situations.I carry all the materials possible rather than
walking into a situation like a raving lunatic.It is clear I have
business, if i have paperwork in tow.and conversely if someone walked
into my shop with some documents, papers, whatever and asked to speak
with me, I would be quite curious as to the paper’s content and
therfore would embrace reading it…why I’m explaining this to you I
have no idea…

Where I live businesses Are regulated against offering the same
goods and or services within 50 feet of another offering the exact
same thing…city council-,and chamber -of-commerce members…not my
rule(s)- glad to have them in place…why I’m explaining this to
you…escapes me also…

Photographing work is illegal in most cases if the designs are owned
by the jeweler/metalsmith…period…intellectual property and
copyright laws are the individuals responsibility to handle…not
mine…but if they have exercised due diligence then they have a cause
for action…non-confrontation gets work copied and sold cheaper than
the person inventing the design, etc…-fact…

Police escorts cost money where I live-but i like the other poster’s
solution of reporting that the place is being cased better as then
there is no outlay expected and the police have to respond to the
allegation of the store being set for a robbery

I meant non-competition forms.(thought i said that).and I can be
quite convincing -in a very calm and objective way- that the Owner
signing such a document protects us both-however walking in with an
escort outside and visible is more bent towards leveraging that owner
to put a stop to employees of theirs photographing anything in my,
imagined in this case,shop. I would not have it,period unless they
had a legitimate press pass and an appointment… I do business in a
very business like manner and don’t take BS from anyone if it affects
my income or my employees, or my properties…that’s my
decision…Further,I’m well aware of all laws pertaining to the
business of jewelry making and selling, etc.and choose to hold
competitors within 50 feet of my establishment accountable for their
infringing on my rights,etc.

And in the case of their employees signing non-disclosure documents.
I would give them all a choice -owners and employees, now in the same
,imagined,space, to either sign the form that states they will not
disclose or release photographs of my copyrighted
designs, marketing plan, security system, and whatever else I -and
hopefully- a witness or two,saw them photographing without my
express permission…OR…they could simply expose the film in my
presence…the choice is for the owners and employees to make.Mine is
to exercise due diligence in offering them options as to how they
would prefer to deal with the incident…no screaming, no yelling,
just facts.I don’t even care why they were photographing what they
were photographing…just that it occurred.

While you may see it as a recipe for disaster, I see it as a recipe
ultimately-for no future problems.I would not walk in With the
police, as you presumed, but with them outside as an escort- I
believe the photographers did something wrong- you may not- I would
think police presence would push the point home that I’m not dicking
around…HOWEVER, i still like the idea of reporting the incident and
having the PD follow up on that report Before I walk in with
non-competition forms as insurance that they will never send
photographers in again…

As for intimidation…Hmm, I feel that sneaking in a store and
infringing on someones rights to personal security, copyright,
artistic and /or intellectual property, etc. and having no intention
to purchase anything yet would sue me if that employee,say fell into
a glass case increases my liability as well and that is intimidation
enough for me to put an immediate end to any of it…

Resent it…No…I would Never engage in something I knew was
unethical, in poor taste at least, and against the grain of
artisan-ship in general and compounded by sending probable
minors./none the less their employees into a store to photograph any
other’s work is not only ridiculous -as I have plenty of design ideas
in my head, inappropriate,and I would be more than happy to have
every detail of dealings with a competitor across the street selling
exactly the same things as I clarified on paper so that both parties
are on the same proverbial page…

Police as I understand them and have experienced them ( my father
being a former civil court judge) are exactly about civil unrest,
and protecting and serving the citizenry of a given place…and
police do expect a ‘tip’ if not an advertised charge for services
rendered …like police escorts to funerals,
airports,parades,immediate calls,etc…where I come from…

So, once again, everyone’s experiences are different. I have had a
number of quite successful businesses, and more clients in a
consulting capacity than I care to mention…not one failed in
business, nor asked for a refund, nor had any litigious matters go
to court that i’m aware of…

and I personally do not wage war, but believe that truth…is molten
enough on its own, and objective discussions usually end conflict
before it starts, and paper is mighty strong stuff…that lends a
crystalline quality to communications or negotiations.

Because you may be intimidated at the sight of a business owner
walking into your store with a folio of papers in hand does not
guarantee that it is intended to be a negative event. Those are
exactly the presumptions that beget discord…I do not advocate
violence, but do, most definitively, advocate clear communications.
Fear not… make jewelry…(and protect your interests if you rely on
them to support you, or an household of people).

And finally I don’t have the authority, or the need to pardon anyone
for expressing their opinions or what they believe to be true. That
is why this is a Forum…everyone has equal input and access in
recommending things to anonymous people on a machine that ask things
of us as jewelers,artisans and/or business people…otherwise known
as the Orchid community.

Hey thanks everyone for your responses.

We have been thinking about it and it seems like playing it cool for
now is the best response. By all appearances these are the sort of
people who stop at nothing to make a buck and any confrontation with
them would likely turn ugly. In a weird sort of way it’s flattering,
since we are a tiny shop run by two self taught jewelers that have
worked our way up from street vending, and they have stores selling
overpriced junk all over the state. I guess it’s time to start
copyrighting our work.

thanks, keep it real.
Douglas and Sarah

Douglas and Sarah,

Your work IS copyright under US law from the time you create it. Or,
as they say at the US Copyright website
(http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html): "Copyright protection
subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The
copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property
of the author who created the work. "

I understand your desire to “play it cool,” being a very
non-confrontational person myself. However, it’s also important to
know your rights and be comfortable asserting them.

If you wish to play it cool, just keep a very close eye on them,
their stock, and their employees. If you see potentially infringing
designs suddenly start popping up in their inventory, or if there’s
ANY repeat episode, that’s the time to clearly and definitively
assert your copyright through your legal counsel and, if necessary,
seek a restraining order against their infringing activities.

And if you have even the SLIGHTEST suspicion that the employee is
acting on their own, CALL THE POLICE. There have been numerous
“inside jobs” in the jewelry industry that could have been prevented
that way.

Unfortunately, the type of people who stop at nothing to make a buck
usually do so by ripping off those who work hard and are creative.
They are also the ones who end up running those hard-working
businesses out of business, because we’re the ones who have to pay
for our creative time and less-popular pieces, while they simply
cherry-pick, hire knock-off artists, and produce items using inferior
workmanship/materials. Their profit margin goes through the roof,
while the honest artist starves and wonders why. As a community, we
can’t be enablers of that type of business practice because we’re
shooting ourselves in the foot when we do. Our target audience
frequently doesn’t know any better (or why would mall stores still
be in business and Walmart be the largest retail jeweler in the
US??!?). So we do have to stand up for ourselves, no matter how
uncomfortable that might be.

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry


They are also the ones who end up running those hard-working
businesses out of business, while the honest artist starves and
wonders why 

I’ve heard this so many times (especially on this list), but quite
frankly, I don’t think it has anything to do with people “stealing”
designs. One of the most common reasons small businesses go under is
because they don’t have enough funding to begin with. Another
problem is that just because you’re an “artist” or “craftsman” (or
“master jeweler”) doesn’t mean you know jack about how to run a
business properly. You may have the most beautiful designs in the
world but if you don’t know how to market yourself properly, how to
look at profit and loss statements, how to price your work properly,
and how to survive the slow periods, you aren’t going to stay in
business. I suspect that very few, if any, people on this list could
actually prove that they were run completely out of business by
someone who simply stole some of their designs. And I suspect that of
those few, if you actually went in and looked at how the business was
run, that there would be another, far more glaring problem. Actually,
of those who mention having their designs “stolen” on list, they all
seem to still be in business. With the amount of arts support in this
country, IMHO, an “artist” chooses to starve in today’s society.
With the number of institutions offering (business) courses to anyone
willing to take them, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone
starting a small business doesn’t take advantage of them and first
find out what’s involved. Run your business properly, stay ahead of
the curve, don’t depend on one design and you’ll do fine. Ignore
proper business procedures, get stuck in a rut, and blame everyone
else for your bad luck and you’ll be one of the statistics.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

What to do about competition spying

Considering this issue, like the issues of copyright or trademark
means that you are prepared to deal with it legally - you are
prepared to spend money on lawyers and courts. I was guided by a
business student to do the following in preparation, if I am
concerned about copyright or trademark:

Take photos of your original designs. Mail each photo separately to
yourself using registered mail. Do not open the letter when you
receive it. If you have to go to court, you have the dated,
registered envelope with the photo of your work inside. It is only
opened by the judge.

You will need to register your complaint of competition immediately
upon learning of it because of the value of dates involved. If your
competitor cannot produce similar photographs that were registered
earlier, then your chances of success increase.

Again, it’s an investment of time, money, and your life if you go to
court. But taking the photos and mailing them to yourself doesn’t
mean you’ve made this decision - you’re making it possible to make
this decision if the issue arises.

This is my first Ganoksin entry. I LOVE this forum and find that I
learn so much. I am a communication consultant and I am studying
jewelry design. Thank you to everyone who contributes so freely and
to the person who created Orchid of Ganoksin.


And if you have even the SLIGHTEST suspicion that the employee is
acting on their own, CALL THE POLICE. There have been numerous
"inside jobs" in the jewelry industry that could have been
prevented that way. 

well said…and absolutely right on. People/jewelers often haven’t a
clue as to their rights, and further refuse to exercise them…it
puzzles me to no end, but i suppose as long as i know mine and try to
steer people in the direction of taking up for themselves as opposed
to having the people across the street,have their work volume
produced in china and resell their designs to wal-mart…there is
absolutely nothing more to do but shake my head and be amazed! great