Design copied from a young designer

Hey everyone,

I’m looking for a bit of advice. I’m fresh out of school, and I just found that one of my projects was blatantly copied and is being sold on aliexpress. They are even using the same pictures from my project. I never patented it or anything.

I just don’t know enough about the legality of these things to know what rights I have (I probably should research about that…). Anyways any help or contacts would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s my original post back in 2014

Nicholas Baker

The only thing you could likely argue is copyright infringement, especially on the photos themselves. You are too late to file any kind of design patent.

On the other hand:

  1. It says it is no longer available
  2. It’s probably sold by a company outside of the US, so it will be a big project just to find a good lawyer to send a cease and desist letter. Even with a good lawyer, the other country may have different laws that don’t protect you at all.
  3. The cost of defense is likely far more than any compensation you will receive.

This is a ever trending problem. Young designers have to learn that this is going to be the case when the publicly share designs with out any type of patent protection.

Although copying the design outright is not necessarily ethical as seen by the design community it is not against the law…

  1. Public shared
  2. No design patents/style patents/copy rights/trade marks

it is a real catch 22 as students want to publicly share their work to get a job via open forums but at the same time do not like anyone copying their designs.

I wonder if

  1. Coreflot could come up with a way that legally protects of automatically copy rights the work posted - or any sight for that.
  2. Problem sd copy right only protects the image not the idea and while that is great for artist - that doesn’t do much for a great product idea
  3. im old so you didn’t see this as much when i went to school because the internet was not a medium for ones portfolio
  4. The school i went to actually owned all the students work - in order to help protect and if a student sold an idea the school just signed over the right to the student

My challenge to the original poster is this - and is the decision process that many company go through

  1. where you ever going to do anything with the design or are you just annoyed at the situation
  2. how much time / effort / money are you going to put into going after the company vs what you will get back be

That sucks!

On the upside, it makes a good story for interviews. haha. I’d think it’s a boon to say any student project made it to production, whether authorized or not.

All images and writing are automatically protected by copyright (barring an agreed to user agreement when signing onto a website of course). You register the copyright simply to have a legal proof of date of creation.

I’m surprised that the facebook generation doesn’t know that when they post something it is out there forever and to anyone. Just like HR can find that photo of you passed out at a frat party, some factory in China can find your light fixture.

Hi Nicholas,
Sorry to hear this happened but it is a common practice. Them showing your original photos probably means they haven’t even made the product but they are hoping a customer is interested enough to set up production.
This happened to one of the products we designed but like Ray said it will not be worth it to pursue legal action because of the cost vs. reward.

Another one of our products was being sold by the manufacturer without our permission directly to an Australian company; they just changed the graphics. Legal action was pursued & intentional lawyers involved. After everything was said and done a) the company stopped selling the product and b) a few thousand were compensated. It was mainly pursued in order to stop the other company from selling the product and to let the manufacturer know selling out the back door would not be tolerated.

I’m assuming you are not selling the product so at this point there is nothing to gain.

Clicking around their Aliexpress store leads nowhere. I can’t even find the tilt lamp again once I leave the page you linked.
This leads me to believe that the store itself was possibly a half hearted attempt to get some venture off the ground, where some would-be entrepreneur used your pics and some creative guesswork to solicit a price from a factory, but no orders were placed and the whole thing probably fell by the wayside. Maybe they are still actively trying to solicit orders.
On the other hand, it may have been produced by the hundreds or thousands for a hotel chain in Australia, and the Aliexpress page was just put up to round out the production run. But I doubt it. If so much as a sample had been produced they would have likely taken pics of their version of the lamp.
I agree it is frustrating worrying about your IP and seeing people claim your work as their own, but this is probably not much worse than someone collecting images for their tumblr blog without giving due credit.

edit: Uh…FH13…jinx. Funny you mention Australia. That was just a random thought on my part.

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the helpful feedback and observations. I think the general consensus is that it’s not worth pursuing legal action. I agree, hopefully they didn’t sell a ton to Australia :stuck_out_tongue: Its just frustrating that people can do this…Oh well, I’ll see it as motivation to do better.



Have you thought to kickstart it?

I agree on the kickstarter angle.

It will make a great pitch story. Designer has his product ripped off before it’s even been produced.

It’s great marketing!

Try to get some orders? You already have a manufacturer lined up and a price.

I would at least try to buy 1 for yourself. As someone said, it’s a good anecdote for interviews. Show them you are confident you can come up with a ton of new ideas, instead of clinging onto “The One”.