(Edited – two hours after I posted this on our site, and Facebook, they pulled the product off her site) 

(I decided to remove their name because they co-operated)

 

Seems I am spending more and more time lately policing our designs. For those of you in the design world, you probably know it’s an epidemic. There are those who design, and those who just knockoff. Our most copied design is the A Frame table. And the latest company to be selling these knockoffs is (Name Deleted). I shot an email off to the company today and surprisingly got a quick response from them. They claim she’s not knocking off our designs, it’s the manufacturer. She just resells imports and is not responsible. And I should go after them, not her.

Now this is interesting logic! So using their logic, I can buy stolen property. I didn’t steal it, somebody else did, so it’s ok. Or underage drinking is ok  if an adult bought it for them. So if somebody else breaks the rules, or does the unethical deed, it’s ok for you to participate as long as you didn’t start it.

She goes on to mention that I didn’t protect my design, which is true. It’s more an ethical dilemma. And her ethics are definitely not the same as mine.

Last month I saw an ad on Facebook for an A Frame knockoff from Dot & Bo (the exact table They ares selling). After a few emails back and forth, they graciously pulled the table from their line restoring my faith in humanity. Here’s the email which is worth reading!


Hi there Greg, 

Just sent word to our team to remove the table from the site. We wanted to let you know that the change will go in effect shortly and we are strong supporters of businesses like yours who bring design and manufacturing back stateside. We wish you well in your work and appreciate you making us aware of this.

Any further questions, just let me know. Thanks so much and take care,

Quincy Roth – PR & Social Media Associate


Is that great or what? Practically every company that I’ve contacted like this has removed the product. That is until I contacted (Name Deleted). Here’s the transcript of our conversation today (10/7/2014):


Message From greg@retro.net:

This design that you are selling is a ripoff, or copy of My original A Frame design that I came up with 4 years ago. My company has been selling them ever since and it looks like you are selling a Chinese or Indian made copy. I would appreciate it if you would either note this is a COPY of my design, or take it off your site. You can look us up at www.retro.net and our company name is Vintage Industrial, LLC.

Thanks,
Greg


Hi Greg,

Thank you for reaching out. We appreciate your concern – however we buy these from our supplier based in the UK called Andrew Martin. We are their exclusive US online retailers.

However, upon viewing your work, we would also love the carry your items – we have over 40K visitors to our site monthly, and I believe we would do well with your product assortment in our Industrial Loft collection.

Please kindly advise your interest and we look forward to next steps?

(Name Deleted)


Hi (Name Deleted),

Ok, (Name Deleted) sources his stuff from Asia. There are several Asian companies ripping our A Frame design off. So you’re saying you can’t pull the product because you buy them from somebody else?

We don’t have a wholesale program yet as we sell direct. We do offer a trade discount though > https://www.retro.net/trade-pricing/

Best Regards,

Greg Hankerson


Hi Greg,

We do not have a wholesale agreement with you so we are not going to
pull any products – if you have any design related patents – you will
need to take up with Andrew Martin – though having been designers, and
been in the industry as long as we have – you’ll realize that
intellectual property as it comes to design is very hard to protect.

If you ever have a wholesale agreement – we would be interested in
working with you.

(Name Deleted)


(Name Deleted),

If somebody was selling a Chinese knockoff of your original design, would you do business with them?

And do you mind if I make this public that you’re selling knockoffs of my design?

Best Regards,

Greg HankersonSent from my iPhone


(From (Name Deleted))

You need to take this up with Andrew Martin. We will no longer be responding to your inquires.

Can you believe she has the gall to try to partner up with us, with her company being the sole importer of that product in the the states? And she denies any responsibility in this act.  Well I thought this was pretty sad. So I thought I’d bring it to light since we have a MUCH bigger following than her. And it helps me to get it out of my system! Next step, put this on Facebook, chat with the PR team, may send a newsletter out. Thanks for listening, and please feel free to comment below! Or better yet, go to this page and click the “(Link Deleted)” button to let (Name Deleted) know what you think. (Link Deleted)

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Darin says:

    hi Greg, I just wanted to take a look at this post since I’ve seen it referenced in a few others on here as well. Also, I wanted to make sure I didn’t “Copy” one of your designs. I wonder, do you have any design patents? Just curious. Also, it seems I’ve seen these style tables that are very old. Some even in cast iron. Did you copy those original designs? What makes your specific to you? I’m seriously asking from a novice designer point of view. It seems sort of difficult to lay claim to the design of a “A” shape. I work at a facility that manufactures very large steel things. Even our shop work tables have a I-beam, A frame base. Different look of course, but it seems that the natural shape of an A, with a narrower top and large base is good for supporting stuff. As well, it seems long boards fastened together makes a good surface for things. Mix the two and you get an A frame table. I have a few tables with a steel square base, I didn’t copy it from anyone, but I would bet that someone before me, and after me will have the same idea. My real questions is two fold, 1) what do you try to protect, and what’s the best way; 2) why even bother? It’s hard to prove, takes time, and you can’t really stop it. It seems there is enough business to be had, and there are different degrees of nearly any product. I think, and I would assume that you too think, that your product is superior. By having lesser quality copy-cats, it will actually drive the market for your higher end product up. For instance, no one really wants a “knockoff” Gucci except the people who are Okay with knock-off stuff. Drive your brand and quality, and let the copy cats drive more traffic to you by driving awareness for the style. Remember, imitation is the highest form of flattery. I only wish to have a design someday that overseas designers are copying. In fact, I’m writing that as one of my goals right now!! Keep up the good work.

  • Greg says:

    Pretty much most of our designs are influenced by one thing or another. No I didn’t invent the A, nor am I claiming I did. What I did do is take the letter A shape, choose a font, add holes to the interior, add 2 connecting rods and screws, and gusset the outside. I didn’t invent the hole, the font, connecting rods, or gusset idea either. But what I did do is take several ideas and combine them into one unique design. I’ve seen a lot of A style tables since it’s a structural shape. But I’ve never seen my A Frame design or anything like it with those elements.

    As for protecting designs, it seems to be a waste of time. Those that copy will continue to do so. Many big corporations will copy and crush you if you try to defend your protected designs. They see it as an equation (Profit From Sales of Copy > Than Defending Copy in Court = Continue Selling It).

    But with social media and a good following, you can stop them in their tracks sometimes. Companies/people don’t like being exposed for doing shady things. For them, that is another equation (Bad Press Damages Reputation and Profit is Lost > Profit from Said Product = Pull Product of the Shelf).

    Be careful what you wish for. How would you feel if somebody copied your product and it looked virtually the same but cost less? And others started buying from them? Or if they sold more of your design then you did?

  • tooth_adams says:

    @Greg, just keep being an innovator. The copycats will always be there. Any time you waste dealing with them is time spent away from what you are good at: creative design and building.

    Glad this one worked out well, but don’t let the mimicry drag you down.

  • Chefe says:

    I have no problem with that this year, but there are prlbaboy a few million other veterans who might take umbrage at our personal taking of ownership of a national holiday. (Of course, to the non-veterans, it’s the first barbecue of summer. It used to be Decoration Day, when people decorated the graves of their dead after winter.) Still, Memorable Day has a nice ring and a lot of possibilities in the very word. Memorable Day it is, and a memorable day it will be. I guarantee it. Ralph, I had forgotten how inspirational you can be!