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04/14/2009: "Coincidence, or...?"
Okay, technically it's not a ripoff, since there is specifically no copyright or patent protection for clothing designs, but it still feels a little like identity theft: just found a new website offering "city knickers," by that name, knickers that look a lot like our own City Knickers, which we've been selling for two years now. Hemp blend fabric, like our originals, articulated knee, similar silhouette though tighter, "double stitching throughout" (to quote them), which we pioneered--and they're advertising in Fixed Gear Gallery, where we've advertised for the last two years as well! Some differences--no drawstring, one rear pocket is a set-in, and there's a butt patch--but not enough.

We've been copied before, but not by folks who were specifically targeting our core market, and not so closely--both cut and material diverged more from our stuff back then. Third cousin, rather than fraternal twin.

And this new bunch even has a short design that looks too much like the Town & Country Shorts that Bicycle Fixation is coming out with this month--down to what they call the "baby cargo pocket," though their pocket looks a little less practical than ours, and there are some styling differences. We put photos of our design online a year ago, when we thought we'd be able to get it to market sooner than was the case. It looks like they're getting their hemp blends (using the same two hemp blends we've used) from the same supplier, too.

It's hard enough to make a living in these recessionary days without having your product styles and--worse!--your product names pirated. Because product search engine traffic is based on product names, of course. We've spent years researching, refining the product, responding to customer feedback, and building up the product name for word-of-mouth and search engine optimization. So this doesn't feel as flattering as it might otherwise--not when there are bills to pay. It hasn't been an easy haul, by any means.

I've written them, to see whether they'll be gentlemen about it. I don't expect them to dump their inventory, of course, but they ought to change the name.

Heard from the owner of the company in question, who testily asserts pure coincidence. And it could be. We'll see how it plays out. Indignation's easy. I was pretty testy myself when I wrote him, and perhaps unjustly so.

Addendum II
Well, after a correspondence that became a bit contentious on both sides, I've come to believe that the design similarities really were a coincidence, and the other fellow's come to realize that the name problem would work against us both, and will be changing his product's moniler.

Guess I jumped to conclusions. (And guess he didn't scan the 'Net for potential conflicts!) We both learned a little something, and it looks like it'll work out.

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