WTF? (um … the politically correct version) – Is this Flattery or Theft?

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery right? Yeah maybe, but it’s still kind of annoying when you find it’s happening to you! “Our wood has been comprimised!” (That’s a Teri quote BTW … I give proper credit …)

If you’re not familiar with our “New Wave Gothic” furniture line, we’ve been developing a unique style by combining Gothic, Renaissance, Tudor, Medieval, Mission, maybe some country – and a little of our own twist to create an original design. We apparently succeeded … we’ve been spoofed!

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Umm – Can you say The Images & Designs above are the Property of Artisans of the Valley – All Rights Reserved? … We knew you could!

The power of the web – the images, the detail, the data – all great to portray your work online reaching and we’re all excited to reach a worldwide audience. Then one day one of your friends is surfing the web and pings you back with a link … and you find … your design reverse engineered and manifested in living color half way around the world! This monster fake was built in Thailand …

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Can you say “Knock-off?” …. We knew you could …

Now – I guess it does answer the question of “How big can you build your gothic table?” … Well, we can build it REALLY REALLY big … large enough to fill the dining room of a castle. This really is our design, a few minor tweaks, a couple simple changes, but … stand back and take a good look. Do we entagle into international copywrite infringement battles or just tips our hats and say nice job and steal back the modificaitons they made to our fretwork panels? One thing that should be made very clear this knock-off is defiately lacking our signatures, and it wasn’t made in the USA  …. so … whatever the new owner paid for this table they didn’t get an investment … they got a table.

The moral of the story is – what’s online becomes fair game for anyone and everyone to pillage. Publicity is fantastic – but beware of the risks that come with online fame as not only will your clients find you but so will the rest of the world!

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7 Comment(s)

  1. Eric,

    Something sorta similar happened to us a couple years ago. An Indian factory copied all the images from our website and put them on their website as products available. They were a contract manufacturer so they were basically just saying they could make that pattern if you ordered it. As far as I know they never actually made them. Anyway, end result-we sent a couple of e-mails and they took the pics down.

    Orion | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m still debating how to react –

    This is gothic furniture, we certainly did not invent it. This particular style is unique to us for a few specific design reasons, the panels are our original design – based on traditional tracery rules and forms.

    So … I’ve already snagged back the images and said – we can build a bigger one too! Do I contact them and see if we can work a deal to produce a manufactured rendition of our handmade table? Do I ask them to take the images down?

    I don’t know – this is a new experience! I knew it would happen eventually, but I never put thought in how to react given so many variables in how it could happen.

    Eric Saperstein | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  3. Well, our stuff isn’t really ours either. They are copies of old ones-we didn’t invent them. But the company did comply. I really can’t stop anyone from stealing our designs-in fact, many years ago a company in Maryland copied a bunch of our Chippendales with the sole purpose of selling them to Eldred-Wheeler-who proceeded to buy his and not ours. Anyway, hey, if you can get a partnership go for it. Otherwise I don’t see much recourse. Your feelings-I understand. I was pissed when I saw the pics. They actually used our own photographs-that was really the only thing that was “illegal”.

    As far as overseas competition-there are markets where you and I will not be able to compete-ever-unless we use overseas factories to our benefit. My kitchen cabinet hardware is a good example. If I made it here, and doubled my price, we wouldn’t sell much if any. Who knows, maybe some low cost simpler pieces made overseas could sell in places (and volumes) you haven’t even considered? Just be sure to keep them separate from your own stuff (things you make yourself). A series of end tables at a lower price point might work. Stuff to think about…

    Orion | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hi Eric,

    i made that table that you say i copied. i got the design off my client to make for his castle.
    We are a Dutch furniture company, and have been manufacturing reproduction antiques for 25 years, first in England, now in thailand. We manufacture Neo Gothic furniture now, for this project.
    Listen, was never my intention to rip off designs, most furniture we get orders for are real antiques from Museum books, and we reproduce them.
    But i read that some one bought a table like the one i made for 240 k? wow… well i make them out of FEQ french Oak, quater sawn. if you are interested in outsourcing email me.

    besides that, i do a verity of Hand carved gothic furniture that you do not have in your collection, that might be good business for you.

    Hendrik Brouwer | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  5. Greetings Hendrik,

    This brings an interesting dimension to the blog discussion … and also is a good indication that our blog is working!

    Reproduction certainly takes us all into the world of copying. We do pieces from the museum books, from rubbings and measurements my father took himself in various museams, and from his teacher’s personal patterns.

    The “New Wave Gothic” line carries influences from many directions. I think it was Steve Jobs, founding of Apple coputer that once said “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” …

    This apparently was his interpretatino of T. S. Eliot’s dictum: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

    The evolution of a design starts somewhere, and then someone changes it to suit their needs – the three panel ends I never really tought we’d do one big enough!

    It’s an odd feeling, the first time I ran into it, to find someone so close to what we’ve come up with online. Blogs are great in this sense as it gave me a fast way to write my thoughts. When time passes, the feelings have a chance to evolve and mature – usually that renders them less potent or less interesting for discussion anyway.

    We liked the way you changed the panels – we thought about going more delicate but most often the clients seemed to want to hold to the extra strength given kids, animals, etc.

    The table you built appears very well made. Overall the scale of the piece is amazing – my back cringed with a knot in it just thinking about moving that!

    We have thought about having a manufactured line of pieces separate from our hand crafted line. I hadn’t posted the links and images back to your site yet – the first thing my father said was “Return the favor steal back the chairs!”

    The throne chair designs that went with the table were quite nice. The X frame ones appear to be comfortable also. I was thinking about how to incorporate those into our portfolio – we should definately talk about chairs!

    In any case it is pretty cool that some rendition of what we created is ending up in a castle. Of coures we’d like to be the ones that built the physical piece but you can’t win them all.

    Would be especially great if we could get $240,000 for a table … not sure where that figure came from but I won’t object!

    Thanks for joining the discussion!

    Eric Saperstein | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  6. Hey Eric,

    My name is Ad and I am Hendrik’s partner in the furniture business and actual founder of our company.
    All my life I have been doing furniture, from own designs to reproduction, and Hendrik can confirm this: Everything I have ever made has been copied/used/adapted, whatever.
    I know exactly how you feel, but you gotta believe me when I say, I did not even know you guys existed, let alone what products you made.
    As Hendrik said, the photos we used to make this table, were send to us by our client.
    He however copied them from a book on certain museum pieces.
    We used these photos and adapted the design to his requirements (we have a brilliant autocad designer who is fabulous at Gothic designs).
    At this moment we are still producing other Gothic furniture for clients including a lot of furniture in neo Gothic style of a designer called “Pugin”, which could be very interesting for you.
    I moved my production of furniture from England to Thailand some 17 years ago to be more price-competitive (much competition in Europe) and we produce furniture for other British factories as well. (which they in turn sell as British made, but that’s another story).
    I think we should definitely get in contact with each other and discuss some possibilities, but I leave that up to Hendrik who runs the business.

    Good luck to you and best regards,
    Ad.

    Ad | May 17, 2009 | Reply

  7. Greetings Ad!

    I think you explained it very well – at least in a way that makes sense to someone in the same positon. Most of what we do are reproductinos – so we copied the designs of the great periods designers and we made either an exact copy or a few changes that spawned our rendition.

    Would Duncan Phyfe be happy that my father made a replicate of his desk? I don’t know – he could be flattered or he may be ticked off.

    Let’s face it a trestle table is a trestle table – I can claim credit for that with as much credibility as Al Gore can claim he invented the internet. I just never expected to see a table that ressembled ours so closely – right down too, and mainly the panels.

    I’m actually thrilled that the blog turned up the two of you and that discussions are likely to emerge from this, not only between us but hopefully drawing in others as well. All professional woodworkers go through this at some point in their careers.

    Our gothic table – the first one – emerged exactly as you described. Our client came to us with a few photos and some concepts of what she wanted. The panel is obviously inspired from church architecture – it ressembles a arch stained glass window. My father actually sat with her and taught her the basic’s of gothic tracery – she happened to be a Princeton University graduate with a degree in Physics – so the math and theory behind tracery was a very short learning curve for her.

    After that we tweaked and changed each piece to meet our client’s specs and also evolve the structure and process to improve the pieces.

    We’ll definately be in touch with both of you to see what we can partner on. We have had a lot of inquiries for chairs but have hit issues with price points given the small scale production runs. That is an area where we have a lot of interest in developing some options to present to our clients.

    We strive to do as much as possible ourselves, and keep the integrity within our “signature” pieces – but the world is what it is and cost factors must be taken into account as this is a business as well as an artistic venue.

    I’m also still pondering what your varient weighs! I rolled on a scale one day with ours in the trailer then again empty. A “mid” sized dining table at 42″ x 96″ weighed in at 500+lbs.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Eric Saperstein | May 17, 2009 | Reply

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