"Theft of Intellectual Property"

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Forum topic by poopiekat posted 03-07-2008 02:21 AM 2036 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4384 posts in 3906 days

03-07-2008 02:21 AM

Well, not really.. but have you ever presented a unique idea, a clever project, a useful item, and before you know it, everyone is producing the same item?
I ask, because of bad experiences I had, producing short runs of reproduction antiques and wooden craft-wares for a gift shop with a high-end tourist clientele. Very often, the proprietor would be approached by other woodworkers with an offer to produce my designs at a cheaper per-unit cost, once the items proved to be a consistent seller. This was annoying, as my work was often placed on consignment,and the marketability was proven at my own expense.
I’d like to hear from other woodworkers, their experiences with their unique products and ideas getting ‘borrowed” by others..

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

32 replies so far

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3936 days

#1 posted 03-07-2008 02:39 AM

Thats one of the big problems with woodworking, theres allways someone out there willing to cut your throat, even if it means cutting their own. Maybe some kind of contract would be in order for situations such as yours Kat.

View lew's profile


12380 posts in 3927 days

#2 posted 03-07-2008 02:56 AM

Not with a project, but being resourceful (spelled cheap) and a scuba driver I used a scuba tank with and adapted regulator for my air tools. I didn’t need to buy a small compressor and the rig was completely protable. Now I see the idea marketed using a paint ball gun tank.

Story of my life- a day late and a dollar short.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3971 days

#3 posted 03-07-2008 02:56 AM

people will always copy. even manufacturers get into this loop. I have seen foreigners buy a chair, cut it up to fit in a suitcase and take it home to use as a model.

-- making sawdust....

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3976 days

#4 posted 03-07-2008 04:42 AM

If you develop a following for your work and produce high quality pieces you will find that galleries and gift shops will not let someone undercut you. I had a gift shop that told me that someone else could sell them the same pieces at a lower cost. After I pulled my other pieces out of the gift shop the owner found that while he could get the same items cheaper he was also getting a lower quality good. Clients who had seen my work asked for it and wouldn’t accept the other persons “knockoffs”. When I was asked to bring items back to the shop I refused.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 3984 days

#5 posted 03-07-2008 04:51 AM

To truly “make it” in woodworking, you need to get people buying your name, not neccesarily your products. I can’t really explain it better than that, but someone can/will always copy great pieces, but the value should come from the maker. Sure, there are other painters that can reproduce a painting or a style of it, but only the original artist is sought after by the clients that matter.


-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3936 days

#6 posted 03-07-2008 05:27 AM

Good for you Jeff, we need more woodworkers like yourself that stick to their guns.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3943 days

#7 posted 03-07-2008 05:28 AM

Are we all not guilty here? Realy. Well maybe not in deed, but I sure as heck think so in thought. Any time we look through a woodworking magazine, do we not try to learn something and apply it to our own projects? I cannot speak for everyone, but a lot of my tricks I incorporated into some projects came from others and I have never cut them a check. We each are a culmination of experiences and influences and how we adapt them is our own choosing. Has anyone here made a dead on copy of something? Perhapse a Morris chair or a Green & Green sideboard? I know I’m 100% guilty of being in possession of a Shaker table that was built here in the shadow of Chicago.
I know it is frustrating to find others copying your work and if it is truly your own work and you had no help or inspiration in its creation, then you have every right to be upset… to a point. If they did not like it, they would not copy it. And,... If you build it better than they do, the people will find you…

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3936 days

#8 posted 03-07-2008 05:33 AM

Thats true to a point Tom, but I’ve never went into a gift shop or consignment and tried to undercut someone elses work.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4486 days

#9 posted 03-07-2008 05:58 AM

Well it is that mindset that keeps woodworking in the low wage category. I see it in kitchen cabinets all the time. Survival prices…if I had to go out and do bids I’d go broke. I work only because of a reputation for good work at affordable prices, but it is not enough to get ahead on. No retirement, healthcare, or vacations.

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4346 days

#10 posted 03-07-2008 06:21 AM

Sorry… did you say you were making “reproduction antiques” and someone copied you?

How dare they!

If your pieces were of better quality, and thus deserving of a higher price, then point that out to the customer. If they’re still willing to pay less for lesser goods, then there isn’t much you can do about that but find a new customer. Pretty soon people will stop buying the junk and your old customer will be left holding a bunch of cheap product.

Don’t sacrifice quantity or cheaper cost for quality. Well, you can if you want. I won’t, though. I know what my time and design skills are worth and that’s what I’ll charge.

-- Ethan,

View poopiekat's profile


4384 posts in 3906 days

#11 posted 03-07-2008 04:33 PM

Thanks for all your responses! It’s reassuring to know that I am not the only one experiencing this problem. Yup, after posting this, I knew that ‘reproduction’ thing might bite me, but I had to pare down the original post to make it more readable. One of the hit items I produced for that tourist shop was a so-called sheet-music cabinet, often placed next to the piano in the parlor. I sold the proprietor the original item which I refinished, which she used as a prop for some hand-crafted merchandise. Everyone wanted to buy that cabinet, so I made 12 similar in various woods and finishes and internal configurations,, and consigned them. Within a week she wanted 12 more! and then…no more orders. Then, I saw them elsewhere, some that looked just like mine only not as nice. Then I saw ‘my’ cabinets in her shop, made by someone else.
Hey, even Thomas Moser, a high-end shop in coastal Maine, once published a book about their products, complete with blueprints, and successfully sued furniture manufacturers who faithfully copied those same plans…
The lesson I learned from all of this is, as many of you pointed out, that I must live on my reputation. I am now trying to source out some parts for a helical lathe I am building, which will produce some whimsical barley-twist furniture and objets d’art which will NOT be easily duplicated by indiscriminate copy-catters. Living in Manitoba now, I have to re-orient myself to a different type of market and buying habits than what I knew in Maine.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3936 days

#12 posted 03-07-2008 04:41 PM

Dennis is absolutely right. And I don’t see it getting any better any time soon.

View CaptnA's profile


116 posts in 3985 days

#13 posted 03-07-2008 04:53 PM

Interesting. I think so much of this is perception. I know some “people will steal your left hand if your right is busy holding your wallet. ”
Is there truly an ‘original’ idea left? This comes up in music so often I’m not sure how every singer isn’t constantly in court.
Like Lew’s comment on using a scuba tank. For over 30 years we’ve used the compressed air tanks for our airpacks to power air tools. I know it wasn’t new when I started using it in 1974. No idea who actually came up with the idea that it would work. Very little difference in SCUBA and SCBA for fire service. My son’s friend who owns a paint ball place uses an old SCBA bottle on their ‘tank’ to power their paintball machine gun. He never saw one, he found one at a sale and figured out how to make it work.
My wife makes jewelry. She doesn’t copy others work – BUT she DOES look at fashion to see what styles might work with what the fashion people say will be selling. Is this wrong? And I guess when she was first learning she DID try to copy what she saw to learn how to make her own work. But she didn’t sell those.
Hard questions with no clear answers.
Trends vs copies ? I’m not smart enough to say.
Poor copy vs MY TAKE on something??
We see what we like and what will fit into our styles or skill levels I think.
To copy someone else’s work and undercut prices – that’s just wrong and I think we’d have a hard time arguing that point. Maybe the store owner who is now selling ‘virtually’ the same thing with a higher profit margin might try…
I know that I have no name and no reputation. Probably never will. I enjoy turning bowls. At what point is a bowl my own and not just a copy of a rounded piece of wood influenced by someone else?
I think at times its easy to see what’s W R O N G – but at what point can we say what is right?

-- CaptnA - "When someone hurts you, write it in the sand so the winds of forgiveness will scatter the memory... "

View itsme_timd's profile


690 posts in 4003 days

#14 posted 03-07-2008 05:03 PM

There was another thread going here about copying work and whether or not that was OK. This situation takes it to a different level.

Like someone else pointed out – we’re all copycats here, to an extent. If we didn’t want to find new ideas (and maybe share some of our own) we wouldn’t be on LJ at all and we definitely wouldn’t post project pics! However I think most of us will copy certain elements, blend elements from different pieces and add our own touch to that. But, what you’ve described doesn’t seem right at all. Hopefully most of us will operate with a certain code of ethics and of course some will not.

I’ve faced a similar situation in my business, I own a contract staffing company and I’ve had my competitors go on sites and recruit my techs and try to get names from them of my clients! They’ll hand out hats or pens, maybe bring some donuts to the guys and tell them they can pay them a $2-$3 more and hour. Of course they can!!! I spent the time and money to recruit, screen, reference, etc. Just like in woodworking, we are selling our name. We might not grow as fast as some of the other guys, but the clients we do have know us for our quality and integrity. We’re not the cheapest service, but quality isn’t cheap.

In my work, I sign agreements with some of my clients that states they can’t hireour people – directly or indirectly – for 1 year from the time we submit them. Perhaps something along these lines could work for you? When a potential client balks at this I explain to them the investment we put into them in finding the right people and delivering a superior product.

-- Tim D. - Woodstock, GA

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4162 days

#15 posted 03-08-2008 03:41 AM

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case, you’re being undermined by the competition. Quality is where it’s at, but that doesn’t explain why we buy so much crap from China! It’s all about saving a buck.

Could it be possible that supply does not meet the demand? Maybe you should talk to the storekeeper too. Remember that he/she has competition as well. You could take your business there. Or actually, you should!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

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