All Saints Apparel Plagiarizes Shirt Design From Gaming Site 4 Color Rebellion

Posh London retailer All Saints Apparel plagiarized a shirt design from the gaming site 4 color rebellion. The site originally unveiled the ‘You Complete Me’ tetris-heart figure for Valentine’s Day in 2006. Designer Mitch was surprised to find that All Saints had plastered the exact same design on a shirt selling for £40—that’s like, $90! Mitch asked All Saints for an explanation, which was enough to prompt a decent resolution.

He writes:

Either way, I’m just a college kid who draws for fun. I don’t know what to do, what step to take next or even if I’d have enough support to really make these guys realize what they’re doing. I realize that this situation could possibly be a result of art scouts giving the corporation designs without really crediting anyone (and, as a result, not be any fault of the company themselves), but I feel like this deserves an explanation or an apology at the least. Maybe even compensation, since they seem to be making a Swiss mint on these things.

Talking is always the best start. If talking fails, lawyer up. Luckily for Mitch, the former was enough to extract a response from All Saints:

You know, I didn’t expect it to happen, but things actually did end up with (somewhat of) a happy ending. I managed to get back in touch with the head of Manches, the guys that do administrative or production or whatever for All Saints, and we managed to work out a settlement.

Because they deal with plagiarism of their stuff a lot, they were apparently very receptive and sympathetic. Apparently, designers get about 2 – 3 percent of the profits in royalties. I managed to squeeze 7.5% out of them. So, that equals out to about $2,400 with the weak dollar.

Long story short, I’ve licensed the design to them for this run, and I’m still in ownership of it.

All in all, they were kind to me about it – however, from what I hear, them paying me wiped out all of their profit on these shirts. Should teach their designers a lesson!

Zounds! We’ve Been Plagiarized! [4 color rebellion]

Comments

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  1. DeltaPurser says:

    Slow down, Skippy… It’s more like $78. In all fairness :-)

  2. fredmertz says:

    An amazingly ballsy rip-off. Not just inspired by — the exact same thing!

  3. chiieddy says:

    Well, no, it didn’t have that 4 square straight piece and the words ‘You complete me’. Therefore, the original was obviously just the inspiration for the $90 T-shirt. </sarcasm>

    I still don’t understand the mentality of buying $50 and $100 T-shirts.

  4. parad0x360 says:

    I would have demanded 100% revenue for all their sales up to that point and then 7.5% for all future sales under license.

    They still made out like bandits while at the same time made you feel good about their theft…incredible.

  5. semiquaver says:

    Yeah right, their giving you $2,400 ‘completely wiped out their profit’ on a $80 t-shirt.

  6. obbie says:

    @chiieddy: not that this is a good deal or anything… but i just don’t understand the mentality of buying cheap $5 shirts (sales excluded)

  7. bohemian says:

    @obbie: We used to buy the $5 4th of July shirts Old Navy sells. We would wear them around the 4th. They make good utilitarian shirts if your getting other people’s beer spilled on you and bottle rockets shot at your back. I still have a few from ’99 that I wear gardening. The first few years they did them the shirts were good quality so they were worth the $5. In the last few years the shirt quality went to crap. We bought two, one shrunk about 20% shorter the other shrunk in a twisted direction on the torso. So we quit buying them. Some of the Pima brand ones from Sams sold for $5 and last forever, quality has waned on those also. Either way they make good shirts for doing things like painting and messy work. I wouldn’t wear them as apparel though.

    Spending $100 for a shirt? It better last forever or have some sort of complicated handwork on it. For a screenprinted tee? No way.

  8. Veeber says:

    @semiquaver: If they already printed a lot of shirts and only sold a small percentage it could easily wipe out their profits. Someone probably completely overestimated the potential sales, or their fixed overhead is relatively high to do the changeover.

    While I wouldn’t take their word for it, but it’s entirely possible. Unsold inventory costs a lot of money.

  9. Mr. Gunn says:

    The missing piece is kinda the whole point, isn’t it?

  10. scoosdad says:

    I think they got off pretty cheap for $2,400. The copy was pretty exact and if they had not offered to settle and had been sued, they would have lost a lot more than that. They would have had absolutely no defense in this one had it wound up in court.

  11. SOhp101 says:

    Of course they wouldn’t have won in court, but that’s not the point. There’s a lot of time and money that goes into filing a lawsuit so its usually in the best interest of both parties to come to an agreement outside of court, even if it means the rightful party not getting 100% of what they are owed.

    Do you really think the designer would have went to London and hired a lawyer to sue? Think about how much that probably would have cost, and the time it would have taken for the entire thing to go through the system. By the time he’d be finished, he would have to use his entire settlement to pay the lawyer.

    And it doesn’t make much sense to call it a $100 shirt, since they do make more over there. Probably more like a $70 shirt (yes still expensive, but they have plenty of companies that sell shirts like this for much more in the US too).

  12. cde says:

    @SOhp101:

    //Of course they wouldn’t have won in court//

    Why not? It’s a clear-cut case of infringement. It wouldn’t have been a profit, but he would have won.

  13. cmdr.sass says:

    Congrats to All Saints for owning up to their mistake without hiding behind lawyers.

  14. welsey says:

    All Saints are theives for their prices anyway! Never shop there…same with Top Shop.

  15. hi says:

    “Should teach their designers a lesson!”

    Obviously they don’t have designers, just theives working under the guise of a designers.

  16. JennifARGH says:

    Now, is he going to donate the procedes to Child’s Play like he said?

  17. karmaghost says:

    C’mon people! This is the internet! Did you not think someone would find out?

  18. Michael Belisle says:

    @chiieddy: This post is not valid sarcasm!

    Line 3, Column 1: end tag for element “sarcasm” which is not open.

    The Validator found an end tag for the above element, but that element is not currently open. This is often caused by a leftover end tag from an element that was removed during editing, or by an implicitly closed element (if you have an error related to an element being used where it is not allowed, this is almost certainly the case). In the latter case this error will disappear as soon as you fix the original problem.

  19. RvLeshrac says:

    @obbie:

    They are articles of clothing. Clothing was originally intended to protect one from the elements.

    Assuming the $5 shirt and the $80 shirt aren’t markedly different (tissue paper vs. cotton, which rarely, if ever, happens), and assuming that the $5 shirt is not made of sandpaper, WTF could ever possibly be the point of purchasing the more expensive shirt, beyond pure vanity and materialism?

    I have seen uncomfortable $5 shirts. The majority of $5 shirts I own, however, are easily the equal of any more expensive shirt. Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that the cheaper the shirt, the longer it lasts. My $5 shirts are fine for years, while the buttons fly off of the $30, $40, and $50 shirts I’ve been given within months.

  20. Angiol says:

    @cde: He’s saying that All Saints wouldn’t win in court, but Mitch would have to put so much time and effort into the lawsuit it probably wouldn’t be worth it. “They” in the quite refers to All Saints.

  21. scoosdad says:

    The irony is that the phrase “You Complete Me” on the original design that was copied, is probably a registered trade or service mark of someone else to begin with.

  22. Witera33it says:

    Actually, in the world of freelance art, 2,400 is an amazing amount of money to be paid for work upfront. Oil painters producing book covers sometimes get paid less. The residuals percentage is wonderful too. They actually not only owned up to their theft, but gave a higher than average percentage, AND let the artist retain rights.

  23. The HZA. says:

    [www.pennyarcademerch.com]

    But the Penny Arcade version of this shirt is so much better. Which came out 2 years ago.

  24. CyberSkull says:

    dugg.

  25. cde says:

    @Michael Belisle: Your post is not valid snark either. :P

  26. aikoto says:

    Though seriously, what point is there to the shirt design without the tetris block and the “You complete me” line? Why would someone buy it? Just because it’s a weird looking heart?

  27. IrisMR says:

    @The HZA: HA! I knew I had seen something similar before.

    So the guy rips off PA but gets pissed when someone rips off him? Oh hum.

  28. Dervish says:

    @IrisMR: Well, it doesn’t really sound (to me) like he ripped it off. Whether or not you want to believe him is up for debate.

    From his thread on Something Awful:
    “Also, as a point of notice, Kiko from Penny Arcade has a t-shirt called Heartris, which has been around since 2005. A lot of people seem to be convinced that I ripped off their idea when I made my Valentine – I wasn’t aware of it, honestly. I didn’t even notice it until nearly 2 months after I released the first Valentine in 2006, and even after seeing it, I didn’t think that either could be considered a ripoff of eachother. A heart made out of Tetris blocks seemed like such an obvious idea to me – we just both came to the same conclusion and made it independently of eachother.”

    @Angiol: In addition to time spent, there were other complications with filing a lawsuit. He’s a poor college student, so legal fees are a big deal. The plagarizing company in question is overseas, so litigation would be complicated and difficult.

    Also, “Without getting into too many details, I can say that, because I didn’t register it with the US Copyright Office within 90 days of the actual copyright, I’ve more or less foregone the chance to get lawyer’s fees and all of that stuff. In addition to that, it’d cost me a college-boy mint to get it into the files at any reasonable speed.”

    It’s a crappy situation and a crappy thing for a large company to do. I’m really glad he at least got something out of it.

  29. Luckwouldhaveit says:

    @Dervish – that is exactly my point — where an artist has not registered his work with the copyright office before the infringement occurs, he cannot obtain attorneys fees and costs of suit, as well as statutory damages in an infringement lawsuit. This is hugely important, since the cost of bringing a lawsuit often outweight the actualy damages caused by infringement, especially where a there is a david artists versus a goliath infringer, such as the retail seller here.

    Also, Scoosdad, even if “you complete me” were a registered trademark, it would only be protected when used to sell the goods/service for which it was registered. Phrases can’t be registered simply for the purpose of keeping others from using them.