Read the epilogue to this story here.
Yesterday morning, when I was still in bed. I received a text from my friend. She was in an American Girl store. She sent me a photo with the message “Uh, Kathy, do we have a near copyright issue here??? American Girls’s new line!”
The NAME of the doll line itself is a riff off my former business name.
The essence, the tone, the inspiration of my former logo design is simply undeniable.
At first, I had a knee-jerk reaction: Self preservation.
Oh, that’s funny. Ha ha. Hilarious.
THEN, it sunk in a little more… and that AWFUL feeling started enveloping me.
HOW could this level of similarity be a mistake?
HOW could they even come up with that name and logo design, WITHOUT having seen and riffed off of MY former logo and title?
I had a REALLY hard time with THAT one.
Look, I’ve been down this road before. I know how hard this part of my business is. And, I ALSO know how difficult it is to legally prove. I have no illusions. Clearly this was not a case of Copyright infringement, or Trademark infringement. Even the TITLE is not the EXACT same.
Whenever I get texts and emails from friends and I see the word “copyright” in the first few teaser words of the text or in the subject line of an email, my heart ALWAYS drops. But, during this moment, a part of me is ALSO very shrewd and realistic. See, 90% of the time, when someone sends me something, I don’t see it. I’m thankful to have friends that send me this stuff. But usually, it’s nothing. Look, I’ve been weathered by dealing with this for so long. I know what constitutes infringement, and what does not, and that there is a HUGE, HUGE grey area. Which, if you elected to pursue it legally, would not amount to anything. Sad but true. I also know that some companies who infringe work really hard to get around the finer points, to be able to use what they want to use without repercussion, and they know how to do that effectively. So, I look at these things with the hard eye of someone whose opinion of what constitutes a “rip off” when it comes to my work is different than a lot of other people’s opinions. It’s way less broad. It’s far more distilled.
Anyway… so, American Girl has a new line of product called “WellieWishers”.
>> The similarity to my former business name is one thing— a hyper-coincidence? Who knows! But it’s only ONE piece of the puzzle.
>> The design of the logo itself is not a carbon copy of my WellerWishes logo that I used from 2006 to 2014. But it is eerie how similar most aspects of the logo are to my old WellerWishes logo.
Now, take BOTH of these aspects TOGETHER and look at both logos TOGETHER with both of those in mind.
When I saw this logo, it actually FELT like my former logo, from the pit of my stomach. It was a bizarre feeling. So, I had to see the WellieWishers logo and my WellerWishes logo side-by-side.
When I did that, bingo.
NO. The similarities are NOT a “copy”.
But, there is just too much evidence of HEAVY INSPIRATION for me to ignore.
THEIR logo and name appear to be HEAVILY inspired by MY logo and name. It’s undeniable.
The similarities are so eerie and so clear to me, that I can pick out a letter in the logo, select an embellishment or detail of the way the letter is designed and then pinpoint that inspiration directly back to the WellerWishes logo… and I can follow how they changed it, why they changed it.
(A heart for a star. Two looped L’s in the first part (like the H in the second part) instead of straight L’s…. Points in the bottom of the “W” instead of curves, but still keep the big swooping curve at the top left with details around it. Embellishments… switch those out, too. Leaves instead of dashes….)
I mean… Wow.
I changed my business name in 2014 to Kathy Weller Art+Ideas. I have kept the WellerWishes blog live, because it helps other artists. (The irony.) Now, if I was still operating under WellerWishes right now, this would be a far more dire situation for me. I thank my lucky stars that I am not in that position!
However, that DOES NOT make everything better. I feel EXTREMELY violated and ripped off. This is MY art and ideas and writing and concept and creativity.
I thought American Girl brand stood for respect, equality, honesty, and CELEBRATING INDIVIDUALITY.
Was this an HONEST mistake and someone became inspired by my work without KNOWING it? I don’t know.
This happens all the time in the world of marketing and branding and advertising. However, that does NOT change the fact that all you have to do is look at the two logos to see what is going on here.
Like I said earlier, when others tell me that they believe my work has been infringed, I often look at the art with a strong critical eye. I’ve grown hardened and weathered by the duality of being a professional artist in the internet age, AND being an artist working in art licensing and product development. I often don’t see infringement of my work when others do. That is not the case here.
Sadly, being creatively ripped-off is pretty much a rite-of-passage for an artist these days, especially artists like myself who work in art licensing and product development. It simply (and horribly), “goes with the territory”.
In no way does that mean I ACCEPT it. NO ONE should ever accept being ripped-off, being disrespected. Being bullied. STEALING another person’s work is ALL of these things. And it’s morally bankrupt. So, NO. I don’t “accept” it.
My only realistic course of action here: using the power of social media to share this with you, and ask you for your support.
So, that is what I am doing.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE support my posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Share, comment, and address American Girl by @name that you are AWARE of what they’ve done, and that it is NOT COOL, and that they CAN make this RIGHT and FOLLOW their own BRAND VALUES.They can acknowledge the mistake,and they can compensate me for the title and the creative concept/direction of WellieWishers.
EASY PEASY. NOT HARD.
Will they make this right? I don’t know.
FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM POSTS below. (Click in to read comments and add your own! Please support me.
LOOK at how I ?CREATIVELY INSPIRED? American Girl @agwelliewishers @americangirlbrand @americangirldollbrand ! It's sad when companies steal ideas and creative concepts from independent artists this way. But technically there is nothing I can do about it. Except share it with other people, so they can move forward with this awareness. Sad. —————————————————- MY STORY… —————————————————-My company was called WellerWishes until a few years ago when I became Kathy Weller Art+Ideas. IF I was still working as WellerWishes today, I'd be inconsolable.?? But today, I'm shaking my head and thinking they owe me a fee and an apology. (My old WellerWishes blog is still live, because it helps other artists. The irony.) —————————————————- WHAT THEY SHOULD DO… —————————————————-HOW should companies handle situations like this one, when they are CLEARLY EXTREMELY inspired creatively by something they see, created by someone else, but by using those ideas they wouldn't be directly stealing any actual ART from the person? —————————————————-> 1 contact the artist. ///// > 2 explain the situation. ///// > 3 pay the artist a fee. ///// >>> It's not rocket science, guys. we're all professionals here. #easypeasy —————————————————- WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP… —————————————————-Tell American Girl how you feel about this. ///// > ➡ SHARE THIS POST to your IG feed, tagging both @kathywellerart AND @americangirlbrand ///// > ➡️ COMMENT your disapproval in this post and name @americangirlbrand . ///// > ➡️ LIKE SHARE FAVORITE and COMMENT my same posts on FACEBOOK & TWITTER ??? … —————————————————-#positivevibesonly #americangirl #americangirldolls #welliewishers #artistsstandtogether