Garden Requisites, a Bath-based company, which specialises in bespoke handwoven English wirework including steel canopies, porches and arches, is warning firms to act quickly if their intellectual property is breached, after a Gloucestershire firm copied its designs and brand identity.
Garden Requisites, based in Batheaston, is run by husband and wife team John and Hilary Thurman who have over 50 years of experience in design and UK manufacturing between them. Its products are handmade in limited production batches or as specific one-off pieces.
It first noticed its designs were being copied after coming across a website in August last year, which was selling identical replicas of its products.
Hilary said: “We are always aware of what is happening in our market and often search online to keep up-to-date. We came across a firm which was not only blatantly copying our designs, but also the look and feel of our company identity.
“We have always taken all possible steps to protect our intellectual property – including signing, dating and recording all original drawings and concepts. It is integral for any firms involved in design to do this, and act quickly if they see any design or copyright infringement taking place.
“The location or history of the firm was not immediately recognisable from the website, so we decided to seek legal help to track them down.”
It is not unusual for businesses that create individual and bespoke items to have other businesses trying to copy their designs, and Garden Requisites’, had experienced a similar situation in 2008. Back then, the firm sought the help of Bath-based Withy King Solicitors which settled the matter out of court.
Jessica Bent, Head of Technology and Media at Withy King, said: “Garden Requisites contacted us again in 2010. After investigative work we discovered that the firm responsible was based in Gloucestershire.
“Design rights automatically exist and it was obvious that this company was infringing the rights of Garden Requisites’ original creations, as the products – down to the last wire detail – were identical. We immediately contacted the company via a cease and desist letter, requiring them to remove the products from their website and stop advertising and selling them.”
The infringing firm stopped advertising and selling the products at the end of January. The matter was settled out of court.
Hilary said: “Although the products have been removed we are watching to see if any further infringement takes place – by this firm or any other. Stealing designs is the same thing as stealing property; except it is intellectual property. We would not hesitate to take court action to protect our designs, and the craftsmanship, time and expertise which goes into them.”
Withy King’s Jessica Bent, said: “We often find that companies do not understand that design rights exist automatically – this was the case with the company that was infringing Garden Requisites designs – and therefore these infringers will take a punt and see if they can get away with copying. For the design owner, it’s important that they sign and date all original documentation and act quickly if they see infringement taking place, just as Garden Requisites did. Sometimes designers might be able to get further rights – such as registered designs or trade marks, and it’s a good idea to check this out too.”