I'm a casualty of plagiarism

A designer who pitched to a local retailer discovers his work being used - even though the client turned him down.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 28 Mar 2014

Q: Last year, we pitched some branding and design work to a local retailer. We spent a lot of time on the project, only to be told that the retailer subsequently decided to do the work in-house. I accepted that with good grace but I've just noticed that its new website designs are remarkably similar to the ones we pitched. Advice, please.

A: I'd be surprised if this was the first occasion on which you've felt robbed. It's an occupational hazard for any company that needs to present speculative design work as part of doing business. And, with rare exceptions, there's little you can do about it.

Because they're starting from the same brief, it's not unusual for two designers to come up with broadly similar solutions. Then there's the possibility of a genuinely subconscious effect. And, finally, there's bare-faced plagiarism. You'll never know for certain which it was in this case and probably, by now, even the retailer doesn't either. What's beyond doubt is that any demand on your part for some sort of recognition and/or compensation is pretty well doomed.

I'm afraid you need to shrug your shoulders and see it as just another cost of doing business.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems on editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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