Creative Industries’ Copycat Problem

by David Seesing

Ideas and creative work are regularly stolen, misused or misappropriated. And it’s not fair.

Brew Dog made headlines in 2019 for using what its former branding agency Manifest claimed was its original idea for the beer company’s ‘Punk AF’ campaign. Zara has a list of disputes with illustrators in its wake, and Urban Outfitters has also been involved in controversies related to the stealing of indigenous patterns for merchandise such as underwear and flasks.

Unfortunately disputes like this are common practice. Tom Rouse, Director of Creative and Strategy at Don’t Cry Wolf, has previously said on the BrewDog case:

“the sad truth is that this isn’t new — everyone who works in PR will have a story of a brand taking their creative and either implementing it in-house or asking another agency to implement it.”

Entire business models can revolve around copying trends and bringing them to market quickly. The fact is big companies with big legal budgets can often rip off smaller ones, and ad agencies, independent fashion brands and even creatives like you or me have been victims of ideas being taken by others and used for financial gain. Sometimes innocently, sometimes not.

Whether it is pitching to win a new client or bringing ideas to an existing one, we designers or artists often take the risk of showing work ahead of payment. And too often, unfortunately, large corporations use ideas from smaller players unfairly or without compensation.

So how do we best protect our intellectual property?

While no solution is completely fool proof, there are steps we creatives can take to protect our work. Until now best practice is to have copyright, trademark, non-disclosure agreements, unregistered design rights or registered IP in place. Tracking IP and confidential information via third party services is also recommended; which is where our app, Archivd, comes in.

Archivd is a software tool built by creatives for creatives — to revolutionise how we track and protect our IP. Via an intuitive desktop app, Archivd allows you to capture your creative process through screen recordings and file uploads — building prior art, a file of unique information cataloguing the originality of the work.

When a project is complete, the app allows you to log this file to the blockchain, creating a digital timestamp and indelible proof that the intellectual property belongs to you at a certain point in time. Giving out an ownership certificate the app offers physical proof attached to the work which can be transacted and tracked, through to commercialisation. And the best thing is it all happens locally, without sharing ideas to third parties; so you are always in control of who gets to see your work.

In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to worry about IP protection. Unfortunately the battle for IP happens daily across the globe and in this reality tools like Archivd are important weapons in our arsenal.

To protect ourselves we need to update our thinking; create copies; make records; stick together using forums like Shop Art Theft and ACID; and use tools like Archivd, to protect ourselves in more simple and secure ways. And hopefully tip the odds slightly more in our favour.

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Archivd Team

A team of designers and creative people — building products to help others like us.