A little creativity, please

Fri, Sep 23, 2011

Gifts & Miscellaneous

Last week I attended the SuperZoo pet product trade show to see what’s new in the industry. Let’s just say I was unpleasantly surprised to find one of the exhibitors had knocked off two original handmade cat toys that I’ve written about here on Moderncat. First, my very own ModKickers. Now, I’m not claiming to have invented the catnip kicker toy, but take a look at the catalog photo above and see what you think (the original ModKickers had zig zag trim just like this). They have a “small kick” and a “large kick”, complete with felt trim and funky fabrics. Really?

But I wasn’t alone in the knockoff smack down. They also have a rip off of an extremely original design from Etsy seller The Dots. They copied her cool disc cat toys exactly. I’ve never seen anyone else make toys like The Dots, which is why I was taken aback when I saw this knock off.

Who is the culprit? It’s US-based company Doggles. They make dog goggles and dog toys. This is, I believe, their first foray into cat toys. And apparently they were unable to come up with ideas of their own. Could you at least try to be a little bit creative? Or maybe just stick to dog toys.

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46 Responses to “A little creativity, please”

  1. 1
    Jess @InStyleDog

    Sheesh. Somebody’s parents failed to explain the whole “taking from others is stealing” thing.

  2. 2

    That´s true!!! They only change the colour, hello? it´s not an ornament, it is a toy! Here in Spain is really difficult to find something new and good, some of the things they call “cat toys” are in fact quite dangerous! Congrats for the post.

  3. 3

    That’s pathetic! Is it really that hard to come up with your own designs??

  4. 4

    That is just ridiculous!!!! Be original people, come on! The name, fabrics, trim AND tag?! It is so blatant it is embarrassing.

  5. 5

    Somebody needs a public shaming. Or at least a very large WE SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE e-mail campaign.

  6. 6

    It is so unfortunate when people do this! :(

  7. 7

    Shame on them.

  8. 8

    OH. My. Wow.

    This is why I got so nervous when people came up to me at comicon & said “would you like us to manufacture your products in our toy factory?” (!) No! I would not!

    Man, Kate, I’m sorry this happened. Double lame.

  9. 9

    Thanks for telling us, we can just be sure to purchase from the ETSY site.

    And, are their products made in the USA? It’s a prerequisite for me before I buy anything for my Lily. Sigh! Except for the tin foil toys that I can’t find here or anywhere, made in the USA. She loves them too much. It’s the only thing I’ll buy made in China. :(

  10. 10

    That’s outrageous. While I don’t know can pursue a claim against them, I will say that I will certainly boycott Doggles, and tell all my friends to do so too.

  11. 11

    This has come up a few times on here but this is why if you don’t patent your ideas they are fair game. If you don’t want your idea copied then patent it! That’s why the patent system exists to prevent this very thing from happening. If you make stuff out of your house via etsy or whatever you run the risk of popular items being taken by larger companies. I agree on the moral standpoint that using others ideas such as this is disappointing but if you look at a busniness and legal standpoint it is legit.

  12. 12

    You may be able to prove copyright infringement (if you have a copyright on the ModKickers) and get a piece of their profits. You should probably consult with an attorney who specializes in copyright infringement.

  13. 13
    Frances Conwell

    My first choice is always to support individual artisans such as yourself and other Etsy artists. My cats and I prefer the handmade craftsmanship,creativity and originality of such individuals and will continue to do so.

  14. 14
    Monica C.

    What a crock of crap! :( I hate companies who take advantage of small inventors and designers, just so that they can make a profit. So lame.

  15. 15
    Catherine Turley

    i’m assuming that if you are concerned about rip-offs, you get a patent. otherwise, inventor beware.

  16. 16
    Angie Bailey, Catladyland

    Wow…that is so blatant! Can you do anything about it?

  17. 17

    This just makes me sick. As someone who has had my toys knocked off before (albeit on a much smaller scale), it makes you feel helpless because there is so little recourse. Yes, there is intelectual property rights on your side, but only if you have the means to fight the fight. It simply sucks!

  18. 18

    So sad…their lawyers probably advised them if their fringe had pointy ends as opposed to your rounded ends that would be a significant enough difference to avoid a design copyright infringement suit. Maybe it’s time to look into design patents for your items..?

  19. 19

    Agree with Jess, but it’s the culture. Unfortunately.

  20. 20

    I couldn’t agree with you more – have they no shame? I find that dog toy makers are generally clueless when it comes to cat toys – but to blatantly copy and present it as their own >>>>>AGGGGH!

  21. 21

    I just wrote the manufacturers of these rip-offs to tell them what I think of their copycat behaviour -

    A few hundred emails chastising them might at least make them feel guilty-


  22. 22
    Neville's Papa

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but that’s a bit silly.

    Will only be buying from Etsy shops.

  23. 23

    Do you have any recourse? I know of a web design site that found their exact site copied online. They just sent a letter telling the other company that it was a copyright infringement and the site came down. Maybe sending an authotratative letter with pictures of your product would be enough to scare them into making something else?

  24. 24

    Whoops, that should be authoritative, of course. I’m so upset on your and The Dot’s behalf I can’t type!

  25. 25

    Haha I love it!!! Call them out on their unoriginality!!! I bet the materials they use aren’t even as good of quality. Just smile at pathetic people and pat yourself on the back for having the imagination to come up with fabulous ideas that people of less caliber can only copy! Keep up the good work!!!

  26. 26
    Dorothy Aldridge

    Hi all ~ Just an fyi that my original toys are indeed made in the US (in northern California) and the catnip is also from California. My toys are packed solid with catnip, they are really firm and not flat at all, as well as all stitched by my hand ~ no sewing machine, and I can imagine the wholesale version that Doggles is selling is going to be flimsy, with half the amount of catnip I use, with cheap fabric and not great stitching.

    It’s comparing apples to excrement! My toys last for years, and cats continue drooling on them, and flipping them around.

    Thanks to Kate of ModernCat for making us all aware of what Doggles is doing.

  27. 27

    I passed the Doggles booth at SuperZoo, but was in such a hurry that I didn’t even glance at their offerings. As the owner of a fairly active cat sanctuary I would have been fascinated by both of these toys, and may have even tried to buy one or two. Then I would have read this post and felt guilty! When I do make a purchase of toys, I’ll buy the Etsy originals. I can’t even imagine the fury/frustration you must be feeling over this!

  28. 28

    How frustrating! They shouldn’t be able to get away with this.

  29. 29

    Darn! Ever since I learned about the etsy site, I have enjoyed ‘window shopping’ and purchasing a few items.

    I am just ticked off when companies try to do this kind of thing. I sure hope you hold copyright on your items and that you will send them a “Hey you” letter and succeed in them correcting their error.

    Once employment status changes, I will be doin’ some shopping!

  30. 30
    Elizabeth Singh

    Talk about ‘copycat’! These type of people who steal other peoples ideas have no conscience. My daughter has her own website called Erin’s Eco List and her content has been copied numerous times.

  31. 31

    We are so sorry that happened to you. That’s just awful!

  32. 32

    Just dreadful, and so very blatant. After the episode with Boots, Barkley, and your scratching post, I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised, but really. Show a little imagination, corporate America.

  33. 33

    Love @Diane’s idea. A little shaming is in order here!

    The copyright path seems a bit costly for most sellers on Etsy – it’s not like most are making a lot of money.

  34. 34

    This is the e-mail I just sent to Doggles:

    I was very unpleasantly surprised to find out that your new line of cat toys features two toys that are very similar to those crafted by independent artists. Too similar, in fact, to be a coincidence.

    First, your Small Kick and Large Kick toys are extremely similar to the ModKicker created by ModernCat (http://www.etsy.com/shop/moderncat?section_id=8098892) — even down to the fabric patterns and colors you chose!

    Secondly, the design of your Dots toys bears an uncanny resemblance to those created by Etsy seller The Dots (http://www.etsy.com/shop/thedots).

    You should be ashamed of yourselves for what looks for all intents and purposes like ripping off the designs created by people who hand-craft them and make high-quality goods. And if you thought you could get away with such behavior by showing off “your” new products at a big trade show, you’ve got another think coming. Even if these designers made the mistake of being slow to get a patent on their products (and honestly, I don’t know the patent status of either of these things), your behavior is unethical at best. I hope these designers have some legal recourse to take you to task for your actions — and if not, I hope you get a highly publicized trial in the court of public opinion.

  35. 35

    Copyright and or Patent…..

    Don’t you just need a “C” with a circle around it to copyright something?

  36. 36

    I am not surprised!… uncreative, thoughtless, cowards in business always behave like this… I will do my part to spread the word and expose their behavior. Somehow I think they will regret trusting whoever it was ‘THEY’ hired to design a line of cat toys. If this so-called-designer isn’t the owner, hopefully the result will be, “thanks a lot for making us look bad…. you’re fired!”

  37. 37

    Unfortunately, this happens all the time, even when items are patented or copyrighted. Small craftspeople are at a disadvantage, since they don’t have the funds for a long legal fight. And it’s not only large companies that copy designs – I’ve read plenty of posts in crafting forums about crafters copying designs from others.

    I think Dorothy (aka, Dots) is absolutely right that the best thing to do is to make the very best product you can and let your customers know why your product is the best. This is one reason I love Modern Cat – it’s my guide to the really top quality products for my cats.

    The most common mistake that crafters and new inventors make is to show their invention to others – once you do that, it’s considered ‘public domain’ and it won’t qualify for a patent. Additionally, getting a patent is expensive and takes years for approval.

    As a craftsperson, it’s important to understand the differences between a patent, a copyright, a trademark, and a licensing agreement. Nolo Press has excellent books on these topics for the ‘average’ person.

  38. 38

    I am an attorney, so first I have to say the following is not legal advice. BUT:
    It would be somewhat difficult and expensive to patent a toy. The bar for a patent is set somewhat high. Your toys (and other awesome cat stuff) are actually protected by copyright this very second. Copyright protection happens when the item is created. You do not have to register your toy with the US copyright office to get copyright protection. Though registering is extremely helpful when attempting to prove you were the inventor/creator. Also, registration can entitle you to attorneys fees and damages if you end up in litigation. You could send a cease & desist letter to Doggles, informing them of the infringement and requesting they stop immediately. This might have more impact if it was sent by a lawyer.
    For free legal advice, you can try contacting the hotline for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. I would consider many of your toys art. Its possible they might disagree, but I think they would provide advice anyway. The hotline is: 212.319.2787

  39. 39
    Gina Smith

    Hello, I have an indoor cat and she gets bored with most toys I buy except for the one I made. It is soft string with three strings of strings in one string to give you and idea how big the sting is, plus it has two of those strings. It is 6 feet long or so and I throw it and she loves it!! I would market the product but anyway. It is very safe but to make it better for buyers it would have to look good too so at the end of the strings the balls would be woven in all the way up to the strings. Just a hard little ball of string woven in to complete it. I get excercise this way too. I think sometimes people think that cat toys will take the place of them interacting with the cat and make it easy for them. I wanted a black spider on a stick too that would mechanically tickle my cats belly and it shout be as big as her belly at least so we can play peek a boo. The stick should be long enough so I can reach her standing up or sitting down. This would help cats who are not interested in toys very much and there are some of those. Here’s another toy, the cookoo bird toy placed on the wall at arms distance from the cat. It looked like a cookoo clock. It is very safe and the bird comes out of two openings holes at different times so if the cat holds on to it for a second or so it makes a chirping sound cat is never able to catch it or maybe it can but its claws won’t get stuck if it s not made of the things that will get it claws stuck so it would be safe. Yet still it has kept its imagination up. Well there’s my ideas.

  40. 40
  41. 41

    Copyright laws are a joke and enforcing them is next to impossible. Like the person above said, you own a copyright the minute you produce a piece. BUT if a big company steals your stuff you can spend more money litigating than you may ever earn from the product…sad but true. Large companies can afford lawyers who will drag out the law suits and force you to spend everything you own. I agree with the person who said…tell your customers why YOURS is better, create them, sell the hell out of them and move on to the next thing. If someone rips you off DO have an attorney send a cease and descist letter.

  42. 42
    Gina Smith

    Well, I don’t think I am breaking any copyright laws. These are all my own ideas but I cannot afford to market the product and have no interest in doing that. I always search for long string toys for cats and never find any. My cat Lucy’s string is very flexible and soft kinda like the kind you tie up boats with to the dock but maybe not as thick as that, I don’t know really. It took me years to finally think of making this for her and it happened by accident when cleaning out our shed. I found this string. Actually I am very tired but my cat is sort of pouting because I haven’t brought the string out again tonite. I am not going to write anymore here on this forum and I hope this is what this forum is about , creating new cat toys. My ideas are here for the taking so whoever finds them first may have them. Take care everyone and have a good day.

  43. 43

    Also, my hubby and I were having a conversation the other night about craftmaking in the USA as opposed to mass manufacturing in other places, such as China. We both feel that our country needs to focus on making a smaller number of quality things instead of mass producing in China. It just might save us. We will always choose to go with the “smaller” craftspeople over big corporations, even if it means spending more, which it usually does. Keep doing what you do best, Kate. We’re with you.

  44. 44

    We own a company that does original artwork and our original concepts get copied all the time. Not only that, but they take literally all the copy in our site, to the point that sometimes they forget to put their company name and they keep ours. Then they sell their lower quality products at a fraction of what ours cost.
    As some of the people above mentioned, copyright laws either don’t protect for this type of thing, or patents are just too expensive to file.
    Sad that there isn’t more originality and innovation.

  45. 45

    This is so infuriating –

    I’m sorry – but not surprised – that it happened – a lot of lazy, uncreative people in this world.

    I second everyone here who support the independent business owner, artisan, craftsperson. The advice given by the attorney post #28 is valuable information.

  46. 46
    Boris Kitty

    Oh and I bet der toys r made in China too. As if stealin ideas wasn’t bad enuff. Pfffffft on dem.

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