Thursday, November 29, 2007

Look alike Stamps: Trends or Copying

Between the holidays and parenting, I haven't been in a creative mood. Sometimes I long for the days that diapers and potty training were my top concerns.
I don't have a card to show, but I do have something I want to talk about.

After I read and commented on this post on Nicole Heady's site, I thought I would mention my own thoughts here, because it's been something that has bothered me before. Let me say upfront that I don't know Nicole and I haven't even purchased any of her stamps, although I admire her work. I don't even intend this to be a discussion about her company or what may be happening to her. I'm talking about the stamping industry as a whole.

To answer the question emailed to me, no, I don't know any more about Nicole's specific situation, but I've been a stamper for 9 years now and I do a lot of observing (translation: shopping). I feel very connected to the stamping industry for other than the obvious reasons, I've designed stamps for a couple of companies and am still contemplating selling my own stamps. As for my stamp line, I can't seem to find a substantial break in my parenting and life in general to get things going, but one of these days...

Similarities: Following a trend or outright copying?

Have you every noticed that a lot of companies will have similar stamps or similar styles at the same time. A few of years ago, I searched for the perfect swirl or flourish stamp. I found two. -- a really huge one (too big) and one that was a part of a set for $20 or $25. Of course I didn't like any of the other stamps in that set (too much to spend for one stamp). Now because of the recent trend, I have a drawer full. They are all different, but each company has it's own version and everybody is happy. I still think that somebody was following me around and listening to my thoughts (lol)
Why do they do it? Because we buy it. Everybody wants to get on the band wagon and sell the "latest"and "greatest", the "what's hot" While it may not be illegal or even unethical to follow a "trend", we as consumers need to support those companies that consistently bring us new and innovative designs.
At one point Biblical Impressions went out of business. Around that same time, I was seriously working towards getting my stamp business going. I remember talking to a stamp company owner and expressed regret that some of my best work wasn't available and had vanished with Biblical. I was advised by a that if I changed the design by at least %10, I could redraw the images and not violate any copyright laws. This particular case involved my drawings and a company that had gone out of business. I don't know copyright law, but if that 10% rule holds true for anything else, I can see how companies get away with putting their own spin on an original idea.

On the other hand:
I believe creative people with the same goals and tools can very easily come up with the same idea, innocently and independently of each other. Then it becomes a race to get it to market first. Whoever gets there first is perceived to be the creator.
I know of a couple of ideas I had and didn't or couldn't do anything about that I later saw in reality. I have no regrets, because I am first a wife and mother and nothing is ever put ahead of that in my life. But let me give you an example:

The concept of covering candy bars is not new. I remember way back in the olden days when I was pregnant with my first child, I saw candy bar baby announcements... very expensive candy wrappers for the regular sized Hershey bars that were on the market. I guarantee you that those wrappers would be too big to fit the candy that is currently sold. Now, I would never purchase something that expensive I could make myself. We all know that had I actually decided to do this announcement myself, I would eventually spend far more in supplies and time that the original design. The point is, the wrappers were designed based on the candy that was on the market.

Fast forward to today, or actually a couple of years ago. I almost always put candy in my teacher gifts. I used to exclusively use the mini Hershey's bars, but a few years ago Hershey's came out with the Nuggets. Their shape is very interesting, wouldn't you say? I actually thought about wrapping nuggets for a split second, but who am I kidding, it was the night before the Christmas party when I bought the candy, so there wasn't time to do anything but open the bag and dump it in the container I had altered. However, it doesn't surprise me that someone would design a rubber stamp for that purpose. The idea of wrapping candy isn't new. Thank Hershey for the inspiration. But if company A's designs are almost duplicates of company B's and even the samples look identical.... makes you want to say "hmmm". Even if they are within their legal rights, I wouldn't support the copy cat company.

What does it all mean to me (or you)?
We rubber stampers need to be aware of what is going on. We need to keep each other informed. ( I'm not talking about complaining or whining, lets let our purses do the talking). I mentioned before, that it's not illegal for another company to jump on the bandwagon with certain types of designs as long as they put their own spin on it. But, as consumers we have a responsibility to all that is good and right to support those who consistently come up with the original, unique, and innovative ideas. While it's impossible to know if two creative people came up with original but similar idea totally independently of each other, sometimes we can tell and we shouldn't support them just because they save us a few bucks.

After all that, you might want to pray that my creativity comes back and that I have less time to think.....


Kathy W said...

Jacki, great post. I have always felt that our greatest voice as consumers is with our purses and voices of recommendation. Trends in anything cause companies to come out with "like" products whether it be stamps, clothes, cars, TV shows, whatever. Usually one can spot the original and those created with quality. And customer service always reins supreme in my book. With the internet, it ties so much together so fast, that sometimes it is hard to know where the original idea came from. And I like your examples...I have made cards without being online for days to come back and find a card similar on someone's blog. Sometimes it just happens when the whole world is using the same stamp sets, paper, color combos, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And hoping you feel a creative spark; your ideas and coloring are always inspiring.

JenMarie said...

Well said.