Dear Etsy, You Piss Me Off.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Did you know someone owns the word "koozie." It's like Kleenex, for example. It might sound like a generic term used to describe something we all know, but it's trademarked. Therefore you and I can't legally use it.

I didn't know this.

I didn't know this until yesterday when I got a legal notice from Etsy that they had removed my "My Dog Is My Favorite Drinking Buddy" POCKET COOLIES. It was my mistake because I had originally listed them as koozies. But Etsy wanted to make sure that I knew that they weren't "singling me out."

Did you also know that if you search Etsy right now for "koozies," around 10,000 + items will pop up with the word "koozie" in their title. With photos of items that you and I would call a "koozie."

So there's that.

But the fact remains I'm in the wrong. And I understand that. I should have done my homework.

Before I create a new shirt, sweatshirt or "POCKET COOLIE," I search three places to see if it already exists: Pinterest, Etsy, and then a basic google term and image search. If something I want doesn't exist I'll create it.

Let's be honest, there's a lot of brunch, vacation, or I love my cat shirts out there because graphic tees are the style right now and some are going to look a little similar no matter what, but I will never knowingly copy an identical design or phrase word for word. I create stuff that I want, that doesn't yet exist exactly how I want it.

I say "knowingly" because last year when I first dabbled into this t-shirt business I created a dog shirt where even though my style was unique, the phrase was not. It was my fault. I didn't do my research. The rightful creator contacted me, I immediately apologized, spilt half the profits (luckily I had only made ten shirts) and told him I'd never make another shirt using his phrase. And I haven't.

But the t-shirt and POCKET COOLIE business is a dirty game. Nothing is off limits. Every time I see the KALE sweatshirt I cringe because I know somewhere out there is a single creative person who came up with that idea only to have it stolen by 1000 less creative people.

My favorite (least favorite) part about Etsy, is that when I go to the homepage the top bar reads "items we think you'd like!" and do you know what is listed? Ten different "I Just Want To Hang With My Dog" shirts.

Oh really, Etsy? You think I'd like these items? Why? Because I came up with them? How kind of you! Thanks for looking out, dip shit.

And then I need to step away because you obviously see this stuff makes me heated. Why can't these other people just change ONE word on the shirt? That's all I ask. Just one.

This is a huge reason why I started my own ecommerce site. Every time I get a notification from Etsy that "one of your listings is very popular" or "your item is trending on the homepage" I'm filled with a mix of excitement and dread. Because I know it's just a matter of time before the Etsy lurkers will grab my stuff and make it their own.

Truthfully, I've been a little salty with Etsy even since they removed several items of mine that featured a brand/phrase that I OWN. A brand that I have trademarked. But I am not able to fight for because I cannot afford to go up against the other guy. (The other guy is not Etsy, he simply has a big enough voice to make Etsy listen.) And it became clear to me that a site originally intended for small artists is not anymore.

Such is life. And that's all the time I'm allowing myself to dwell today. Thanks for letting me vent this out, blog friends.

I'm going to end by paraphrasing a Mark Cuban quote that he said on Shark Tank once that I'll never forget. (Yes, I'm a huge Shark Tank fan and will figure out a way to get on that show sooner or later. And when I do, I will work with Barbara or Robert because he has kind eyes.)

"It's not a question of whether or not people will copy your idea, because they will. They always do. The real question is are you able to succeed, even with the copycats?"

Boom. Drops mics. Cuban does it again.

Keep fighting the good fight, artists, creators, and designers! We're all going to make it.

29 comments:

  1. I get you - I work in the promotional product industry and to do a search for koozies, you got it, pocket coolies! Or can cooler. It's that way with several items (tervis versus insulated tumbler, etc.)

    Oh my favorite - if a client is looking for Croakies but want the knockoff, they're called Peeper Keepers!

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  2. ohhh man. that mark cuban quote is spot on. and something i needed to hear today. thanks for always keeping it real. and i love your "coolies". Good LORD.

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  3. I'm an underemployed lawyer with nothin better to do, so if you want to take on etsy I'm your girl. I'll charge you beers at Snickers.

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  4. I love Shark Tank! That sucks about your koozie!

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  5. SO DUMB. I hate that Etsy started in order to promote real artist who create unique things, but has really just turned into a market for people to copy things. Also, I love Shark Tank and my favorite part of this post was definitely: "Because he has kind eyes." Nailed it.

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  6. Wow...I had no idea Etsy was such a battle!! I can understand when people were making products with Taylor Swift's lyrics on them where it was copyright infringement I guess...but the word Koozie?!? I know I've seen that term many places. I'm sorry that happened to you!! It's a shame! =/

    I hope your day turns around! Melanie | Blog: Toots + Dill

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  7. Mark Cuban knows his shiz. I love that quote.

    Also, I know that the phrase "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is sort of like when someone says a bird shitting on you is good luck (i.e., it could be true, but it doesn't make either situation better), but at least you've made something people want to copy! I'm confused though - Do you actually have a trademark on that phrase?

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    1. no TM on dog stuff :) it's my other brand, Talk Herbie To Me. that's a whole different battle.

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  8. That Mark Cuban quote is spot on!

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  9. This a daily battle for me with my cards. Etsy does nothing if I report someone for copying my cards. It's the very thing that I think will sink them in the end. No one wants to go to a handmade marketplace to find five million of the same thing. They go there to find something unique and original. And if Etsy can't stick up for the people who are paying them (the artists) those people will leave. For the same reasons as you, I've branched out to my own website as well.

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    1. I feel you. You should comment with your website so people can check it out :)

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  10. How stressful! I can imagine you must be fuming! Xx

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  11. I follow a lady named Ashley Longshore and she is a painter - like legit - and she talked about how galleries just STEAL from the artists and so she now basically sells and deals with her customers solely on social media - mainly Instagram (& she's a millionaire)! It makes total sense to sell, market and do things on your own vice dealing with a platform like Etsy or in a painters case, a gallery. Do you, girl. (Also, we are friends with the girl whose grand-father "invented" the koozie! Random.)

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  12. I love Shark Tank too! I just wish I was creative enough to come up with an idea that would get me on that show. Drat. I totally agree that Robert has kind eyes.

    As for the other stuff...ugh. Etsy is so annoying in what they choose to enforce and what they don't. Totally inconsistent and unfair.

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  13. I know what you mean! They once sent me that notice on some hand-punched confetti I made. I described it as "Tiffany Blue" and evidently out of the bazillion "Tiffany Blue" items on Etsy, my $1 confetti was the most threatening to the folks at Tiffany. Whatever. I have a couple of quotes I have purposefully held off putting on items because I'm afraid as soon as I do, everyone will start using them. Though, if I were you, I'd claim copyright to them and make them do the same thing they did to you to all those people using your t-shirt quote. You can claim copyright even if you haven't registered it...you just can't sue without it being registered.

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  15. Robert's eyes are reeeaaaaally kind. Especially for a "mature-age" guy.

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  16. Etsy can be so annoying! You don't get nearly as much control on their platform, and that's one of the main reasons I started my own e-commerce storefront too. I had a similar problem with describing one of my necklaces with the word quatrefoil. A freaking shape, but apparently it's trademarked! Who knew!

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  17. As a graphic designer, I get sick to death over copyright infringement from any direction. Whether it's another designer ripping off someone's hard work, or someone using a image from Google images to make a meme to drop on Facebook (a designer's nightmare in more than one way), or knowing that a legit company will not attempt to pay for artwork/designs/photos to use in their campaigns (and stealing them)...it's not okay. It is not in any way okay. I'm sorry this happened to you.

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  18. Love the Mark Cuban quote. I have no doubt your brand will succeed though :)

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  19. I just ordered your shit because your shirts are awesome. I'm sure your coolies are wonderful too... but I might have too many in my drawer. Keep doing you, everyone else can just suck it.

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  20. Mark Cuban is always my favorite on Shark Tank, i'd probably never do business with him but he's always got the greatest lines.

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  21. Ugh that sounds like such a tedious and ridiculous argument to have with them constantly. I love your shirts, keep up the amazing work!

    elainea
    toast the girl almighty

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  22. Etsy's the worst! I haven't put any effort in to my jewelry business since I started grad school (because let's be real, grad school's hard), but I actually stayed away from Etsy for many reasons, including the fees and the fact that they market themselves as a hand made market place but you KNOW most of the jewelry on there isn't hand made. And where do we really draw the line at "handmade"? Apparently buying earrings off of Alibaba and repackaging them seems to constitute handmade to Etsy. I just checked and it looks like it's gotten better but I know there's an asinine amount of copiers on there....

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