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Old 03-25-2014, 07:31 AM   #1
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Default Ethics & What Do You Think?

I just recently heard about a new company that's springing up from another company's design team members.

The DT members broke off and started a company but their design images are pretty close to the old company's designs. Copying is the best form of flattery but the previous company wasn't shutting their doors but just selling itself to another firm. Doesn't that sound like plagiarism? What do you think?
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Old 03-25-2014, 08:49 AM   #2
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These are designers so their ideas are in their heads so it's not as if they stole products or blueprints. They each have a style and I wouldn't think their previous company had any sort of monopoly on that. Depends too, on what sort of contract/agreement the company had.
I'm OK with it, it's how a lot of new companies start.
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:01 AM   #3
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My profession is contracting, so I negotiate clauses related to issues like this quite frequently. What we produce from our work and minds is our Intellectual Property or IP in the 'biz'. So, the person that created the design would start out owning it. However, it's quite possible that when they became design team members of company A, they gave over their ownership of the designs (in whole or part) to the company in a legally binding agreement. That agreement dictates whether or not they have rights to their own designs in any form, large or small, whole or in part.

If there was no agreement, then they can use their designs for anything they want, whenever they want. I'd be a bit surprised if the company and the designers were not very clear about what the limits are on the IP clause in their agreement. The purpose of such clauses is to protect all the parties and prevent disagreements generated from an ethical point of view, which is a value/moral judgement and not a "business" judgements.

A word of advice, if you are a designer or a business owner and are not including such clauses in your agreements, you should look into doing it. It could save you bundles down the road.

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Old 03-25-2014, 10:07 AM   #4
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These are designers so their ideas are in their heads so it's not as if they stole products or blueprints. They each have a style and I wouldn't think their previous company had any sort of monopoly on that. Depends too, on what sort of contract/agreement the company had.
I'm OK with it, it's how a lot of new companies start.
No, Cartermrc, the designers were just a DT and used the products made by company A to show off their uses, so they didn't actually create the products or designs.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:13 AM   #5
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My profession is contracting, so I negotiate clauses related to issues like this quite frequently. What we produce from our work and minds is our Intellectual Property or IP in the 'biz'. So, the person that created the design would start out owning it. However, it's quite possible that when they became design team members of company A, they gave over their ownership of the designs (in whole or part) to the company in a legally binding agreement. That agreement dictates whether or not they have rights to their own designs in any form, large or small, whole or in part.

If there was no agreement, then they can use their designs for anything they want, whenever they want. I'd be a bit surprised if the company and the designers were not very clear about what the limits are on the IP clause in their agreement. The purpose of such clauses is to protect all the parties and prevent disagreements generated from an ethical point of view, which is a value/moral judgement and not a "business" judgements.

A word of advice, if you are a designer or a business owner and are not including such clauses in your agreements, you should look into doing it. It could save you bundles down the road.

mob

I'm sure there was a contractual agreement with company A. Most any good business has one. But the DT's resigned from Company A and within a month or two had created a new company with some very Look-A-Like designs from the same artist that the Company A had. All very well and good, in theory but it seems a bit unethical to me.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:33 AM   #6
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No, Cartermrc, the designers were just a DT and used the products made by company A to show off their uses, so they didn't actually create the products or designs.
I didn't get that at first, thanks!
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:35 AM   #7
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If I'm understanding what you say, the DT members are just creating new "designs" that look similar to the ones they created for the old company?

I don't have a problem with that at all. There are only so many ways you can "design" a card. I'm guessing you mean where the images are placed, and the overall "look"?

Many people who are creative develop a style that looks pretty distinctive. Just because they switch companies and are using similar products and a similar style to their designs doesn't make them unethical. Why should they need to change their style, if that's what they are comfortable doing?
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:41 AM   #8
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Unless employees have a "non-compete clause" in their contract, there is nothing illegal or unethical about them leaving the company and (1) going to a competitor to do the same thing within a certain time period or (2) opening their own business to do the same thing within a certain time period.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:50 AM   #9
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No problem, Cartermrc
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by havonfamily View Post
I just recently heard about a new company that's springing up from another company's design team members.

The DT members broke off and started a company but their design images are pretty close to the old company's designs. Copying is the best form of flattery but the previous company wasn't shutting their doors but just selling itself to another firm. Doesn't that sound like plagiarism? What do you think?
The head stamp designer from the old company is the one who is launching the new company and will be using her own stamp designs. I don't think we know what her contract with the old company entailed. She may have retained the right to those images she created for them. Even if she didn't, there should be no reason she can't make new stamp designs for her own company once she has fulfilled all her obligations to the old company. Her style of stamps is just that - her style of stamps. To make more stamps in her signature style isn't copying anyone but herself. I certainly don't think that just because she designed some stamps for one company that it means she can never design stamps again once she departs that company.

I would think that the design team members had a contract which included the period of time each member was committed to the old company. Once their time is up they should be able to enter into an agreement to design using the products of whatever company they choose. Since the stamp designer is known for her distinct style, I really don't think it would be unethical or surprising that both she & her design teams work product might be "close" to what they previously produced. (Just my opinion.)
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:59 AM   #11
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From what I understand everyone of the DT members and the resident artist of Company A resigned, and made their own product company using the Look-A-Like designs from Company A.

I think that is actually unethical because you are using Company A's ideas, marketing and publicity to create your own company (with Look-A-Like designs). If the Company B's (new company) designs were nothing like the previous company's (Company A) it wouldn't be an issue, don't you think?

I'm actually surprised that no one thinks it's that big of a deal.

Think of it like someone took/duplicated one of your layouts &/or card designs and got Rave reviews all over the internet. And it was all credited to THEM not You . This is what I feel like the Company B is doing to Company A. No one else thinks that?
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:01 AM   #12
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A reminder here of our site posting rules - please do not make people the subject of negative posts, no matter how generally you refer to them.

This is our most important site rule, and can jeopardize your account if violated.
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:12 AM   #13
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Absolutely, Lydia! I do apologize to you and everyone that read this that was offended. Again, my apologies everyone
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:30 AM   #14
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Think of it like someone took/duplicated one of your layouts &/or card designs and got Rave reviews all over the internet. And it was all credited to THEM not You . This is what I feel like the Company B is doing to Company A. No one else thinks that?
It's really not quite the same. Company B isn't duplicating Company A's work and taking credit for it. Designer B was doing a pretty big chunk of the work all along. Company A was selling designs by Designer B all along - Company A was using Designer B's ideas and designs. Nothing unethical or wrong about that, I'm sure that Company was paying Designer for his/her talents and they must have had some sort of agreement. Now Designer B wants to start Company B, selling her own designs. If Company A didn't have a non-compete clause stating that Designer B could not sell her designs to anyone else or start her own company until after a certain length of time had passed, there is nothing wrong with Designer B starting her own company with her own designs. Of course they'll look similar to what Company A had been selling. They're being drawn by the same person. (No different than some stamp designers who sell to multiple companies, if that's what their agreement allows.) As far as the design team "defecting" to Company B, I could easily see someone making that decision if they were on the design team of a company that was in the process of being sold, and they were unsure of their status with the new owner. Does it sound like a rotten deal for Company A? Yes, I guess it does. I'd feel hurt if it was me. I'd also be thoroughly cheesed off at myself that I didn't have a contract with Designer that kept things like this from happening.

I remember back when Stephanie Barnard (?) was designing for a stamp company, whose owners up and sold the company and left her sitting without a job. Maybe Designer B remembers that as well, and wanted to make sure the same thing didn't happen to them.
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:23 PM   #15
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I just recently heard about a new company that's springing up from another company's design team members.

The DT members broke off and started a company but their design images are pretty close to the old company's designs. Copying is the best form of flattery but the previous company wasn't shutting their doors but just selling itself to another firm. Doesn't that sound like plagiarism? What do you think?
"Pretty close" is vague and subjective and I'm not sure in what context you mean "copying." Presenting a similar style? Or using the same artwork? I'm not really clear on the question you're posing.

If this is copyrighted artwork then what matters is who owns the copyright. Copyright infringement can also apply to derivative work.
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