Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Why NOT put your BEST WORK on your WEBSITE?

I have a patent pending on an item I make. There is a sign above the display with the PP number on it.

It never fails a few times a year that after trying one on, a customer will say that she just wanted to see "how you make yours because I make the exact thing."

I ask her where she's from, does she have a website, what shows is she in? Subtle, huh?

I quietly ask her if she saw the sign over the display. Sometimes, the question is, "What does that mean?"

I explain that my lawyer exhaustively looked through all patents to see if one was filed about the making of this exact product. Anyone who breaks a patent will be subject to the strictures of patent law.

I did find a crafter trying to copy my design. A letter went out from my lawyer(which costs me!)

How do I know she ceased making them?

That's why they don't appear on my website.


Someone told me not to put my best jewelry designs out on the web either. Other artists stroll through and copy.


WELL, how am I suppose to sell off my website?

To what percent do I have to honestly worry about this unethical practice?

Views: 122

Comment by S. Michelle Babcock on April 26, 2011 at 2:17pm
The jewelry industry is notorious for rip offs. I've had designs stolen beginning in college. I went to get a drink during an enameling class and came back to find a jeweler that had and still has a successful business locally going through my sketchbook. I didn't think much about it until a few months later I went to his shop to purchase a diamond for an engagement ring and low and behold there were two of my designs in his showcase. He now has a rep among jewelers as a thief of designs. And he really does not trust people...go figure. I do a puzzle ring that I designed years ago that a few have tried to steal also. The do things like buy the ring to copy, sneak pictures, the list goes on.
Comment by Annette Piper on April 27, 2011 at 4:34am

I've found people find a way to copy if they want to.  I just try to keep one step ahead and keep making new designs. 

A patent pending item though, I'm not sure about - I imagine there are lots of them out in the marketplace and they defend themselves against the copiers which may dissuade others from copying too?

Comment by Shoshana Matthews on April 27, 2011 at 9:21am
It's not, unfortunately, unique to jewelry - although that's probably the worst for copiers.  I'm a weaver making handwoven clothing - hand dyed, embellished, unique styles.  I've had people come into my booth at shows and blatently start taking measurements and drawing diagrams.  Only once did I say what another weaver had taught me years ago - "If you want to copy that it would be easier if you'd buy one and take it home."  That stopped her (and no, she didn't buy it).  But there are others who try the same thing.
Comment by Linda A Shields on April 27, 2011 at 11:19am

I really thought after all the money I shelled out for a patent that I'd be covered.

I'm appalled at your stories of people coming into YOUR booth and copying right there.

THAT is stealing, pure and simple.

The same for taking photos of artwork.


I was told by law I could put up the PP(Patent Pending) Sign and NO ONE would bother me.


Annette, do you put a great(your best) design for necklaces and earrings on your website?

Comment by Laura Timmins on April 27, 2011 at 11:55am

Work made with passion can not be copied. People who don't understand that WILL try to copy when they see something they like, but their attempts will be lacking and they will most likely be short lived. Anyway, what's the point if you don't show the work?

Comment by Linda A Shields on April 27, 2011 at 12:51pm

I know, Laura, it's depressing to me not to put my best out there.

I want my web clients to have the best selection, too.

This year I'm going to larger but fewer Art Shows. How this will pan out I have no idea.


I've thought deeply about this ever since an AFI member told me they didn';t.


I'm not creating the Crown Jewels here but it's my magic.

I'm normally a great sharer.

What's the problem?

Comment by S. Michelle Babcock on April 27, 2011 at 3:08pm
Those that copy have no magic. Every once in a while someone will bring me a piece or a photo of a piece that they want me to copy. I explain to them that I can't do that, because it is wrong for me to do so.
Comment by Annette Piper on April 27, 2011 at 10:01pm

Linda, if I'm in the midst of shows I may not put up a couple of special pieces, but that's more to reserve them for selling at the show.  Ultimately, 90% of my inventory is on my website - some never make it there as they're sold first, and some I just haven't had time to upload.


As far as blatant copying goes:

I was told by an image consultant (who was a client of mine) that she had commented on a woman's necklace with the question "was that made by Annette Piper in Coolah?"   "Oh," responded the woman, "no, but she has a great website, I get all my ideas from there!"     Like, what the!?   

And then there are the inevitable people who make their own jewellery who take up valuable booth space and your time to study your work for extended periods of time, obviously trying to either work out how its made or what it is made with.  They NEVER buy one - they're too cheap to do that LOL, they want to get all the information, ideas and your creativity for free.

I've also had people copy, verbatim the text I use on my site - from product descriptions through to privacy policies!  


All these things have made me angry but then I decided to move on - there will always be someone copying or wanting to copy your work, so we've just got to keep ahead of the game and keep designing something new - they won't have the same flair for colour or the same skills to make quality items, or the longevity we have, so yes, as Laura indicated, the copies are inferior.  Unfortunately if they're selling those copies, they can convince a potential client - at least until that client looks closer (if they do), so they can still lose us business!


Of course, on the other hand, it has been said that NOTHING is original, but I'll leave that to another discussion!



Comment by Megan Horan on April 28, 2011 at 5:49pm

I am not an attorney and don't play one on TV, but I did work in a patent department for a few years and learned a few things along the way.  The patent will protect you, however, you must prove that the other party copied your design and take action - which in most cases will turn into billable hours for your attorney.  Patent infringement can be a tough battle to win.  Also, you may want to change your sign to just say Patent Pending and remove the US number.  If someone is truly interested in designing the same thing, they can go to the US Patent & Trademark Office website and pull up your application/patent and read the claims. 


The company I work for used to put patent numbers on their items, but no longer does that.  It just makes it easier for the competition to design around the patent. 


Again - not a lawyer, not even a semester of law school.  Just a few things I learned.

Comment by Linda A Shields on April 28, 2011 at 6:04pm

Thanks Michelle and Annette and Shoshanna,

I've left my wedsite to molder as I've hit this great creative streak.

Along with that my customers....NOT GOOD!

Because I was afraid to post. 



We all have to face what we fear. I guess I feel that when they say "nothing is new under the sun" they mean what humans think or feel or their reaction to common life issues.

But to be an artist and create is to be god-like.(I don't mean to offend.)

I cry my way through the majesty and tragedy of the entire Louve. The beauty of Josh Grobans voice alieves my most intense pain and leaves me breathless. The last line in "Middlemarch" makes my soul sigh. God's sunsets in Hawaii make me take the Leap of Faith. Spielberg takes my imagination on wonderous journeys where no one has gone before. Tim, my wonderful jeweler friend who just passed at 54 of a massive heart attack, created the stunning ring I deeply love. It remains an him.


But you are right, too. If you don't have the magic you can not know what it took to create and the soul of the copy is empty. I find that people cannot put together or appreciate why great mixtures of color work. Throughout my life, people have asked again and again "How do you do that?" Meaning mixing textures and hues into beauty. It is as natural to me as breathing. I don't ever even think about it. God gave me this gift and I am grateful.

Maybe I could show just half of the necklace? Explain in the website that if the customer is interested I would send a Pic of the entire item.

I really am paranoid, aren't I?

I better get over this. Move on, didn't you say? I only create(usually) one of every great thing anyway.

What about you?

Do you make more than one of each design?


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