Take an original idea and then run away with it

After a while in this business you get used to similarities between your projects and other people’s. You get cross for a bit, then you calm down. In short, you get over it. I’m writing about a new phenomenon, which is occurring with alarming frequency to Johnson Banks.

Look carefully at the picture on the right. On the left hand side are some of our design solutions for three different ex-clients, some of which we were paid for, some not. In all three cases, the projects went strangely quiet or we were fired, usually in that order. Then, lo and behold, a matter of months later, the clients unveil their solutions (on the right hand side), which often bear uncanny resemblance to our thoughts.

Any letters, however polite, are met by the obligatory stone wall. One of the above is already several rounds into an expensive legal process. One fired us for not being ‘trendy’ enough, then gave our designs to an ad agency to develop. One fired us, paid us off, then approved virtually the same solution from a different design group six months later. All three clients know very well where the provenance of their final solution lies, but none will admit it on the record.

However well versed I or my solicitors might be in copyright law, the plain truth is that to pursue any of the above through the courts might result in a £30 000 legal bill with no guarantee of success. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t got a spare £90 000 in my litigation budget.

Last week, Lord Puttnam argued that intellectual property is one of the greatest strengths we can take into the 21st century. But if defending intellectual property boils down to the size of your wallet, heaven help those of us who choose to remain small.

Michael Johnson


Johnson Banks


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