This Hot Topic Brain Necklace Looks Awfully Familiar

On her Etsy profile, Sarah writes that she makes sculpted jewelry in her Toronto apartment. Her pieces are cute, like cookie-shaped rings, and creepy-cute, like cufflinks shaped like anatomical hearts. But one of her signature pieces is a set of heart-shaped “best friends” necklaces with the texture of green brains. It’s creepily adorable, and a best-seller. Apparently national chain Hot Topic agrees, since they happen to be selling a very similar design.

She wrote to the blog You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice about her predicament:

The part that gets me the most is there are many ways to make brains and the way I’ve specifically chosen to do them isn’t the same as a real brains texture. It’s a technique I use because of my medium of polymer clay, which is not the medium they’ve used. It feels like a copy to me and even gave my guts a churnin’ once I stumbled on them. After contacting hot topic and getting no response, I was wondering what others might think

It’s not a perfect copy, because it would be hard to mass-produce the exact same design and still meet disaffected-teen-appropriate price points.

Update: YTWWN reports that Hot Topic has pulled the necklace from their website and from store shelves pending an “investigation.”

I Heart Brains Best Friends Necklace Set [Etsy]
Have a Heart, Hot Topic! [You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Captain Spock says:

    Class action suit against Hot Topic? They have gotten in trouble many times for this kind of crap. It is high time they were sanctioned.

    • lilspooky says:

      This seems logical

    • StarKillerX says:

      Even if she had proof they stole her design how exactly would this be a class action suit?

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Every few months Hot Topic ends up in the hot seat over plagiarism issues. I think the class action suggestion was made because this artist could likely band with other ripped-off artists to get Hot Topic to clean up their sources.

        • Captain Spock says:

          My Point exactly.

        • MarkFL says:

          Oh, good, a class-action suit. Then if Hot Topic loses, a few lawyers will collect $20 million while the designers each get a coupon for $10 off their next purchase of $25 at Hot Topic.

    • sorta savvy consumer says:

      It would not be a class action, that is when a whole class (as in everybody that bought an iphone) are wronged.

      This is good case for a copyright infringement lawsuit though. You know those ones the recording industry are always filing. This is what the law is for, use it. $150,000 per copy sold.

      The OP should have no trouble finding a lawyer to file this one, there could be a lot of money on the table. The lawyer should take it on contingency (i.e. they will take 30% of whatever they recover).

    • Applekid says:

      I heard Hot Topic has microscopic End Shopper License Agreements heat-treated and embedded into the floor of the stores, written in 0.0001 pt fonts, which prevents anyone from forming a class action suit against them, and forces any disputes into Mandatory Binding Arbitration.

      And it’s in Comic Sans.

    • beat_black says:

      I agree, they may need a bigger reason to stop the many thefts besides ethical ones… clearly that’s not enough to them.

  2. deathbecomesme says:

    Sounds like you need to draw up a good cease & desist letter with a lawyer. Give them an explicit time frame to adhere to your demands. Keep all records of contact and be ready for court! Go!

  3. MutantMonkey says:

    Is there really any legal leg to stand on here? The base design is one we have seen many times as traditional heart pendants, this one is just stylized to have a brainy look. Considering both brain hearts are based on an existing concept and look a bit different in design, I doubt there is much that can be done.

    • Sunshine1970 says:

      She might have a case, though, because looking at how the squigglies are situated in the copy, they match up to her design almost perfectly.

    • Jaynor says:

      Check out those brain patterns again… they are nigh-exactly the same. like the folds are the same. It’s hard to say that it’s not an attempt at copying.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      Normally when I see something like this I dismiss it because it is very possible that 2 people came up with the idea independently… but then you look at the brain matter pattern and it is clearly a copy.

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      Normally, she wouldn’t have a case (because you can’t copyright the idea of a friendship necklace made in the shape of a brain) BUT the matching of the exact brain pattern gives her an excellent case and one that Hot Topic would have a very hard time disproving.

    • Jawaka says:

      Did the patent her design? If not then lets hope that Hot Topic doesn’t do it first.

      • eturowski says:

        1.) This is a copyright issue, not a patent issue.
        2.) In the United States, copyright protection automatically exists from the moment the work is created. You only need to prove that you created it first, which should be easy enough with something as traceable as an Etsy account. Granted, the seller is in Canada, so the laws there may be different.

    • Telekinesis123 says:

      Every twist and turn in the pattern of the brain is identical, just look at it. The odds of that happening randomly are next to impossible therefore it was copied.

  4. Difdi says:

    Zombie BFFs rejoice?

  5. PragmaticGuy says:

    I think she needs to get Apple’s attorneys involved in this. They love going after anyone who remotely copies something of theirs. In any event, it’s obviously a rip off and I hope she doesn’t lose many sales over this as Hot Topic shows how classless they are….again. Heaven forbid they actually license the design or buy directly from her.

  6. Coffee says:

    When large companies like Hot Topic do this sort of thing, there should be significant reparations paid to the artists whose work is stolen. Like, hundreds of thousands of dollars. And no, I don’t care if the person who came up with the design didn’t tell HT that it was stolen.

    • sorta savvy consumer says:

      The law stipulates $150,000 per item. That is what the recording industry uses, it is that high both to be punitive and give the original artist soem recourse.

  7. shepd says:

    Well, remember, in Canada you have moral rights over your copyright work. Do you feel sad? You can sue.

  8. Telekinesis123 says:

    Isn’t this about the third time Hot Topic has been caught doing this just on Consumerist?

  9. Telekinesis123 says:
  10. az123 says:

    I am amused that everyone here just assumes the national chain copied it and ran with it… for all we know based on the article Hot Topic has been selling this thing for the last decade or more… Also Hot Topic does not make these things, and if someone had taken the design it was the manufacture of it and Hot Topic just purchases it and offers it for sale, in order to go after someone you will need to go after the person who actually took your idea, which is probably somewhere in China and basically untouchable

    • shepd says:

      Of course, importing items that violate your country’s laws (even copyright laws) into your country makes you liable for the violation.

      In other words, since the people in China aren’t responsible, Hot Topic is.

    • kranky says:

      If that were so, why don’t companies buy dolls from China based on Disney characters and sell them here? When Disney lawyers knock on the door, just shrug and say go after the guy in China who made them. But until then, cha-ching!

      • deathbecomesme says:

        Go buy some Louis Vuitton knock offs and sell them on the corner somewhere. Come back and tell me you don’t get arrested and are held responsible for selling knock offs.

  11. Kuri says:

    Things like this continue to make me glad the Hot Topic kids haven’t discovered steampunk.

  12. kimmygibbler says:

    Hot Topic is notorious for this. Every Time I Die, a hardcore band from Buffalo, coined the word “shinfo,” meaning “shitty info.” They made up the word years ago, and it goes hand in hand with that band. A few months ago, they tweeted about Shinfo rubber bracelets at Hot Topic. I don’t think they copyrighted the word, so there’s nothing they can do, but it’s still so lame.

  13. cspirou says:

    I don’t know about jewelry but fashion are ZERO copyright. Every designer is able to copy anyone else design no matter what. The only thing they can’t copy is a name or logo because that’s trademark. From reading her page I see that each necklace is made to order for each order. There isn’t any real stealing because she couldn’t take the volume of orders Hot Topic would have even if she wanted to. That being said, I don’t think the person that shops at Hot Topic is her customer. The amount she would have made would basically be the same whether they stole it or not. In fact she’s probably going to get a lot more business because of all this publicity that came from stealing it.

    Here is an excellent video which talks about how fashion thrives without copyright.

    • beat_black says:

      I remember learning about this in school (fashion business course) and cringing. I think there may even be certain jewelry that cannot be copyright, like if the components are bought instead of created. Luckily in this case my work is covered .

      The stealing comes from parts of the design since the pathways of the brains are the same. It’s true I couldn’t keep up with the same amount of orders but theft is theft and if they were to go about it legally like they have done with other designers (certainly not all) in the past they would have had to pay me for using my design.