Counterfeit Cupcake Caper?
Boing Boing reports today that independent designer Johnny Cupcakes claims to have been ripped off by Urban Outfitters. Apparently Johnny discussed the possibility of doing business with the national chain last year and submitted samples, which were never returned. Recently, a friend emailed him to say that Urban Outfitters was selling one of his designs under their own Urban Renewal label.
The jet dropping cupcakes on the left is Johnny's original design; the one on the right is manufactured by Urban Outfitters:
Worse still, according to Johnny this is not an isolated instance of Urban Outfitters appropriating the designs of startup artists.
So, can't Johnny sue? Doesn't he have a copyright in his design?
Well, yes -- and no. Johnny has a copyright in the design on the front of his T-shirt (though not in the T-shirt itself), but he does not own the idea of a jet dropping cupcake bombs. Copyright law protects only Johnny's particular expression of the concept, and the Urban Outfitters design may very well be different enough to avoid legal censure.
Johnny Cupcakes has no intention of being sweet about this "awful, scummy situation," however. Instead, he's using the internet to harness social norms against copying by asking those who read his site to repeat his story, shun "cheating" companies, monitor Urban Outfitters for possible copying, and especially buy T-shirts direct from the source.
He may wield aluminum cupcake pans instead of brass knuckles, but with a name like Johnny Cupcakes, you know this young designer means business.