When is copying copying?

Back in 2009 a small group appeared on Flickr featuring parodies of the infamous Keep Calm and Carry On poster. I was doing a lot of tongue-in-cheek digital illustration at the time so over a few days submitted a number of my own contributions to the group. Some of these have become quite popular, one receiving over 18,000 views.

Over the last two years a number of folk have got in touch to see if any of these designs are available to buy as prints or tees. I have dabbled with the idea and put a couple of tee designs up on Spreadshirt last year. However I recently decided to try and take this a bit more seriously so have commissioned some screen prints of two of the more popular designs which are due back from the printer any day now.

With such popular images has come a lot of people reproducing and selling copies of these works, mostly via services like eBay, Amazon and various print on demand services. Some are adapatations of the design, others are blatant rip-offs – the processes for reporting these as infringments is often overly complicated and time-consuming to do anything about and usually if an item is pulled it soon reappears from the same seller or another trading name.

I’m used to seeing small-scale copying of my designs but was surprised to see a tweet from buddy Steven Easton saying that Lakeland are selling a cup featuring my design. The offending item is clearly not my original design but the combination of phrase (however poorly executed) and the textured union jack background is surely more than just ‘inspiration’.

So what are your thoughts? Imitation or inspiration? Does this constitute infringment by Lakeland of my intellectural property?

Appreciate if anyone can advice on what – if any – grounds for complaint I have, particularly those of a legal persuasion.

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