Coping VS Stealing

After 10 years in home appliance design business I have seen some of my design being copy by small Chinese factory. Not very elegant but I get use to. But today is another story because this time it’s an American company who is involve (Farberware) and behind a major group (Spectrum Brands/Salton).
Four years ago, when I was working as Senior Designer for an home appliance Chinese manufacturer, Faberware approached this factory to work on new coffee maker products. At that time a mission statement, a brief and some design guide lines were given to me to work out a new design image.

It is our further mission to reinstate Farberware as the frontrunner in coffee preparation by providing a core line of premium quality coffee products that exemplify Farberware’s long-standing commitment toward value, quality, innovation, durability and classic sophistication.

Generally square-shaped body, but with soft lines and curved edges/corners
Heavy weight (quality in the customer’s mind)
Brushed finish on housing (polished finish on accents)
Sturdy, industrial handles (but still look elegant)
Sturdy, tactile controls (metal dials, toggle switches, makes “click” noise, etc.)
Blue LEDs
Blue backlit for digital displays (with large, easy-to-see readout)
Platform-like base
Embossed/Stamped logo, or s/s logo plaque with polished finish to contrast against brushed housing – (not silk-screened logo)
“SOLID”, seamless construction (no plastic showing)

After few days of sketching, I proposed them few design axis and one of them stand-out.

At that stage, I worked in 3D and after some modifications (mainly concerning the water tank) I sent them the first rendering.

They were really pleased by the design and ask me to work on others products.

Unfortunatly Faberware face some serious problem and the project was cancel. The company was bought by Salton, restructured…then Salton face some problem too and more recently Spectrum Brands own Faberware. And what was not my surprise to learn today that actually a very close coffee maker is selling in the US under Faberware brand. Here are the pictures:

The deal was never signed with Faberware and all designs rights are belong to my previous employer. Well played Faberware!

Oh and guess what…

Nice Renderings!!! I assume you are working for a larger OEM in China. I’ve seen this happen before and I think there is not much you can do about it. I’ve worked for lareger OEM’s in China and it doesn’t surprise me that someone dug out your design, maybe the tooling data was complete and available so someone thought, lets do it.
Thanks for sharing the story and some of the design process, one day I will share some insights as well but it’s a little to early now to spill the beans

  1. Great work. Your original is far superior in the detailing.

  2. I guess because the work belongs to your previous employer, it’s not really stealing from you. It’s great that you seem responsible for a very attractive design language for Farberware though.

Correct, that’s not stealing from me but from my previous employer. What’s the difference? They had no right to use those designs.

Am I missing part of the story? I don’t think they’re stealing anything.

Spectrum Brands = Stalton = Farberware = Your former employer

Doesn’t that chain of purchasing allow Spectrum to do what they want with any design in the system?

Really nice work though. I second Ray’s comments that you do appear to have been responsible for some very nice design language for Farberware.

My former employer was a Chinese factory that produce ODM & OEM home appliance products. In that case it’s an OEM project. Farberware is not responsible of the design, engineering, production. If they like the design, if the FOB price match their expectation…then they order a certain quantity. If they want to own the product, they have to pay the tooling. That’s the deal in this industry.

Whether or not your former employer has a case is between them and their client. I advise you to stop this display. None of us are contract lawyers or arbetrators, nor do we know the factual details of the deal, so any conversation is speculative and perhaps even damaging to your former employer’s potential case.

From the designer’s perspective, I would think you would be happy that your work influenced the production product. I agree with Raymond, your original design is much cleaner and more iconic. A nice portfolio piece. Focus on that.

I agree - always concentrate on the positives and try not to be bitter. Our trade is very small, so if you feel bad about this, keep it to yourself, try to come to terms with it.

Bad design doesn’t tend to get knocked off.

Infact, I see getting knocked-off as a victory, I’ve made it, I’m being copied! I must be doing ok!

Well done, you have made it. :slight_smile:

Chinese “coping” ideas, tell me about it.

And that’s one of the problems with large OEM / ODM in China. Their in house design studios design products for client A and if they don’t like it they will turn to Cleint B and try to sell the design. It’s actually the sales department which does this, designers rarely do this. So what happens sometimes is that out of no where you will find your design with client C years later. I know your situation is different but don’t be surprised, it’s China, it’s about sales, especially with OEM/ODM. Design and morals are put last on the list. Anyway, nice work!!!

To Yo’s point…this one little comment is far more disturbing to me than anything.

Unless I am reading it wrong, your company was doing Spec work on this design.

If you’re not familiar with the term “Spec Work”, it is doing work for free in hopes of gaining future work (speculative work).

Doing Spec work is devaluing Design and, frankly, IF they were doing spec work on this design, I’m kinda glad they got the shaft.

You can call it “spec work”, frankly speaking I have no idea if other manufacturer were involve in this project at the same time. And, as employee, I couldn’t reject any project if the boss wanted the company to take part of it. Anyway it’s how business is done in most of the case when you work for some Chinese manufacturer. You work on design for specific or non-specific customer. But in any case the design always belong to the factory unless it’s specify that the design rights are ceded. That’s definitely not the case here.

Spec work and licensing:

was the ‘y’ stolen too? :wink:

I agree that it’s unprofessional to air dirty laundry on public forums like this, even if there was wrongdoing. It could jeopardize future business for your former employer, which could effect your own reputation if someone calls them for a reference (for you).

You did a good job on the design and it made it to production - it’s a great portfolio piece

I dont recall the same fracas with the Orbea vs Kestrel controversy a few years ago… no one accused a designer we knew of unprofessionalism- we put it on the front page. This is even more cut and dry. Seriously-you guys are giving a designer grief over a typo??? wow…

At any rate this is a first for me. Chinese factory produces refined design that is ripped off by major American brand…

it’s his style, wonder what he would have done at Ford.

I think its good to hear about this kind of thing happening out there, but bringing specific company names and their business details into the conversation isn’t a good idea (at least the way I see it).

To me it’s like having a grievance with a former employer and posting scandalous details about it online - especially when company (and people’s) names are involved. Yes, it could serve as a warning to others that might fall into the same problem, but it also highlights you as an employee that takes matters into their own hands and posts company business in very public ways.

Maybe ‘unprofessional’ was a bad choice of words. I’d think it puts the poster at a bit of professional risk

About the spelling, it doesn’t bother me enough to make a big deal out of it and I’m not the spelling police. that part was just kidding around

Ya, well, if it was spec work, that’s the risk your company took by doing the work for “free”. I understand that you were an employee, but spec work is hurting the value of your future career. You should be speaking out against anyone that is using your skills for free.

From the Taiwan ICSID (International Council for the Societies of of Industrial Design) General Assembly:

I see it the opposite way around. The “spec work” his employer paid him to do, brought his talents to all of our attention. He now has a great portfolio piece that otherwise never would have been created. Just no need to mention the negative parts when discussing it. His employer assumed the risk in order to make a play for hundreds of thousands of dollars of production.

Hyltom,nice work. I like your toggle switches on the design better. Small consolation, but the end product looks very well made.

What rendering software did you use?

I think we’re saying the same thing, nxakt…I’m kicking the company for the spec, not the OP…sorry if it sounds like I’m slagging hyltom. That’s not my intention.