One of the first pieces I designed for my old label “Sparkling Follies” was a little crown called “Lilja”. The first edition of it was pretty soon sold to a customer in Finland, but I kept the photo on my webpage as reference, in case another customer might like something similar.
In 2007 I was surfing the internet checking out the “competition”, and suddenly I was looking at something that looked very much like my crown Lilja in NIXA’s 2007 collection of bridal accessories. (You can see both my work and their crown in a photo at the bottom of this post). NIXA was then, and still is I believe, the largest company on the Swedish bridal market. First I got upset, then I became sad that they hadn’t tried to buy the design from me, and after that I got really angry and contacted a lawyer. I was lucky enough to find one of the best Swedish copyright lawyers, and he was very willing to help me – and for a good price too. He told me from the start not to hope for any monetary gain from the process, the best I could hope for was to have NIXA’s crown taken off the market. Then started a rather interesting letter exchange between my lawyer and NIXA.
After the first warning letter they said they didn’t think their crown looked much like mine at all, and they claimed that they had bought the design from Hongkong and had never heard of me (which might be true, but the design was still very close to mine).
After the second warning letter from my lawyer, they wrote that I had no proof that I had designed my crown Lilja before they had bought their design in Hongkong, This wasn’t true, and I could prove it.
After the third warning letter, they suddenly decided they had made a mistake in buying the design from Hongkong to begin with. It didn’t sell very well in the stores, they said, and wasn’t very nice looking anyway – so they pulled it from the market. And that’s exactly how they explained it in their letter to my lawyer!
My lawyer told me it was a victory for us, and that it was more than he had dared to hope for. They had put the blame on bad sales results, we suspected, so they could get it off the market without having to confess to using my design. This meant we could not take the claim further but I was happy with the result anyway, even if it left me slightly poorer. I felt a little bit like David winning against Goliath – I didn’t exactly knock them out, but at least I think I made their knees tremble a little.
I now own one of the NIXA crowns, I couldn’t make myself pay for it, but a bride bought it for me and traded it for a necklace that I made for her. That way it wasn’t my money that paid for the thing. Sort of. I keep it as a memento.
So did I feel flattered? No obviously not. I still wish they had asked me to sell the design to them, I would probably have let them have it much too cheap, since I would have been very pleased to be asked by such an important company.
I really do NOT appreciate being copied, whether it was by NIXA or their Hongkong partner.
I love being someones inspiration though, as long as they take their inspiration and make something original with it. That makes me feel flattered and very happy too.