Keep your paperwork to prevent copycat designers, advises Trunki founder


Descendants’s suitcase brand Trunki lost a law case last year after it was start rival brand Kiddee had not infringed its copyright. Now, Trunki founder Rob Law makes advice to designers on how they can protect their ideas.

Keep your paperwork to prevent copycat designers, advises Trunki founderTrunki at all events © Magmatic Limited

Designers should keep and timestamp all their paperwork and pummel sketches to prevent other people copying their work, the stagger of children’s suitcase brand Trunki has advised.

Speaking at a panel scrutiny chaired by copyright specialist law firm Gowling WLG, Rob Law offered advice to outcome designers on protecting their intellectual property (IP).

Law, who founded suitcase trade name Trunki in 2004, lost a legal case last year that was filed against challenge brand Kiddee, which was founded in 2013.

Keep your paperwork to prevent copycat designers, advises Trunki founderKiddee case © PMS International Narrow

Both brands sell children’s pull-along suitcases in the style and pattern of animals. A legal case began in 2013, where Law alleged that Trunki’s IP had been transgressed but the Supreme Court eventually ruled in 2016 that this was not the the reality.

This was based on the fact that design rights are intended to keep safe surface design rather than ideas.

Speaking at the time, Law swayed the case spelt “uncertainty for designers” and put UK-based designers at a “distinct detriment from [our] European counterparts”.

“Don’t be disheartened”

Now, Law has taken a more positive position, telling designers not to be “disheartened” by the failed case but instead to take as numberless precautions as possible to prevent copycat designs.

He added that creators should not be scared of sharing their ideas with other mavens and that gathering “feedback” is an essential part of producing a successful commodity.

“You get your classic shed inventor who won’t tell anyone about their piece, but the design process is all about prototyping, getting feedback, improving samples, and developing an idea,” he said. “You can never develop an idea if you don’t tell anyone involving it. You have to be open.”

In order to protect designs, he said, inventors can conserve their ideas by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and it is also crucial to timestamp undertaking process work and keep rough sketches.

“I keep all my records”

“I denied all my records, so I was able to prove that certain designs had come everywhere through a process,” he said.

One example from the Trunki vs Kiddee statutory case where this helped Law was on the central clasp feature of the primary suitcase.

“We had an issue with the first version of our clasp where the discovers would pop open and I was able to prove that that was my original, unregistered plan,” he said. “That was ruled in our favour, so Kiddee decided they weren’t usual to pay us a royalty for that feature but were going to redesign it instead.

“They redesigned it naughtily and have a huge problem with their closing clasp. So small elements like this, if done differently, can result in poor playing of the other product in the market. “

Registered and unregistered design rights

In the UK, connivers can either rely on unregistered design rights, which automatically mind designers for a maximum of 10 years, or pay for registered design rights, which are stronger and screen them for 25 years.

Law advised designers to register designs when they can, summing that Trunki “files a registered design for just about all things” now. This acts as an official document that can be recognised by legal cadavers in other countries too, he adds.

But whether registering or not, Law says that devisers should always keep physical evidence of their processes by frugal them on storage devices like USBs and CDs.

“I had old CDs with scanned pieces of rag saved on them,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly when I’d sketched them, but the age of the scan was good enough evidence. Keep all your paperwork.”

ACID’s storage plan

He also advised designers to use organisation Anti-Copying in Design (ACID)’s online upload way to protect ideas if they cannot afford registered designs.

The servicing allows members to upload designs to a confidential database, acting as a sometimes and date stamp if you need to prove when you officially created a concept.

Law sums that designers should try to be quick and stealthy with marketing their offering and establishing it, particularly in other countries, as it is a “race against time to support there’s a commercial appetite, then to raise funds to protect them”.

Law was deal with as part of a panel discussion hosted by Gowling WLG at this year’s London Blueprint Festival.

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