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.