Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Maple Insists: Etsy and Infringement? Aka, Why Matt...el and A...G Sux

So I'm lazy.

Yes, it's me, Maple - How could you tell?

Oh, because I said I am lazy - yes, yes, it's me - and yes, I am lazy.

So at the beginning of August the news went around that American Girl® was executing a crackdown on any handmade shops, etc. that were using "American Girl" in their listings.

It was really AG/Mattel forcing Etsy to police item listings and shops so that no one was infringing upon AG's copyright/trademark.

Since I was pretty much clueless about all of this stuff 
I waited to see what happened before reporting back to you guys (all five of my readers).

The basic thing is...

You can't blatantly use the word "American Girl" in your Etsy listings, your webstore, etc. in a way that could be construed as you selling an actual American Girl product.

You should say 18" doll.

And don't blatantly use "WellieWishers" or anything close to that.

Go with 14" doll there.

You can say things like: 

For 18" play dolls such as American Girl®.

But then you have to say you are not affiliated with American Girl®.

On every listing.

(I'm gonna make stickers of that ^^^ and place them all over my body.)

And everywhere you say American Girl® be sure 
to use that registered trademark symbol ---> ®.

You can say things like: For 14" Play dolls such as WellieWishers™.

But then say that you aren't affiliated with WellieWishers™.

Etc. Etc.

Or your listings could be deactivated, your shop deactivated, etc.

Yes, the Mattel and AG copyright/trademark po-po 
(police) has come around again.

They are protecting what is rightfully theirs.

Which is their right.

*Insert applause and back-slapping so that 
the lawyers feel they have done a good job*

This happens all the time.

It seems like a handful of sellers get targeted, yelled at, "punished," etc.

Their stores are never really "closed" permanently - but it can often be a very successful scare tactic to shutdown someone's listings and make it a giant pain-in-the-a** to reactivate them, get your store back up and running, etc. etc.

They don't make it an easy fix.

And they don't really help you fix it easily and painlessly.

At least, that is what I can see.

What I see is a bunch of handmade sellers panicking and heartbroken.

Something they love has turned around and bit them in the butt.

Dear Mattel and AG and Etsy,

Does this have to be so traumatic on people?

Can't you simply message people to change their listings?

I'm probably missing something here, 
but this is why I say they suck in the title of this post.

It comes down to making people feel like they can't sell handmade stuff - or off-brand stuff, etc. - and what's the point of that?

Your brand, American Girl®, can stay healthy and relevant if you allow people to create a whole little ecosystem around it.

And if your brand, American Girl®, didn't sell such fugly doll clothing, people wouldn't be on Etsy looking for less-fugly doll clothing.

^^^ IMHO. ^^^

But in the end, when doing searches for doll clothes - keep 18" doll in mind, fits 18" doll, made for 18" dolls, etc. etc.

And if you have been hit with this copyright stuff, don't be too discouraged.

Keep sewing and crafting and creating.

And keep selling.

Don't let the corporations stop you.

Keep pushing forward.

Make the changes to your listings, and your tags, etc.

But keep selling.

Do whatever you have to do.

In the future I expect AG/Mattel to start cracking down on listings that use AG dolls as models - as they do this with other companies online that have used AG dolls as models.

So keep that in mind.

But until someone tells you to stop using AG dolls as models, 
I would keep using them so that people know how your items fit on the AGs.

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

Just keep swimming friends.

Just keep swimming.

p.s. This blog is in no way affiliated with American Girl®.

p.p.s Even if they asked me, this blog would 
never be affiliated with American Girl® in any way.

If it was, I couldn't sit here and type words like "sux" or "sucks" or "fugly."


Serenata said...

It is a crazy world we live in for sure. I cam understand them wanting to protect their brand, but to stop people using the name in their listings to describe what sort of doll the clothing fits is just plain crazy. I guess they don't have anything better to do!

dannyscotland said...

What I don't understand is how THEY don't understand how they are hurting their own products when they do this. If people get to go buy clothes and accessories for a particular popular doll, don't they realize that people will want MORE of those dolls? People are still going to buy stuff from them. But they also need to realize that A. their stuff is WAY overpriced and frankly, out of the budgets of many people 2. they can't possibly provide the variety that handmade sellers offer, and d. they are turning people off from the brand when they act like jerks about it. Personally, I almost never purchase anything from either of those brands unless sometimes it's second hand. And the reason I don't buy from them is that they treat people like these sellers and people who blog about their products in the most disrespectful way possible, as if these people are dirt. They don't seem to realize that they are helping their brand, that it's FREE PUBLICITY, much more so than copyright infringement. Sure. Protect your brand. Whatever. But use a brain when you do it. Sheesh.

Farrah Lily said...

It's been a long day that started off with getting cavities filled and then working 8 hours, talking to patients on the phone, all the while trying not to sound like I'm slurring from the novacaine, lol so your last image of "not affiliated with American Girl" in the horror movie script has me laughing out loud. Loved this post :)

Sarah G said...

Thanks for the heads up! I'm about to do my first bazaar, and I wasn't sure how to label the dresses for the booth.


Frances Cain said...

This was a really interesting read! I own a little indie doll brand and it would never occur to me to discourage artists and sewers from making clothing and accessories for our dolls to sell on their etsy shops. (We even have a lovely little fanclub on facebook which actively encourages people to share what they have made for our lovely Girls). Trying to swing a big stick in this day and age seems a bit short sighted to me. With social media and all the different sales platforms out there like Etsy, customers should be able to get closer to the brands they support and brands should have transparent and open dialogs with their customers and fan base IMHO...
Great blog - you've brought up some really good points. <3

Amy Bray said...

You need to worry about online selling..if your are selling at a booth they can't know you used their name.

Bleue said...

It's all about the money in a world that is filled with greed. Personally, I think AG and the other big time companies are shooting themselves in the foot...and if that's what greed does, then fire away!

I can barely stand to look at AG stuff anymore because it isn't about fun for doll lovers anymore..just about the money and it pains me to think of all the little girls/boys out there who can't afford the prices yet get taunted if they have a doll with "lesser breeding".

Keep sewing those wonderful clothes and I will put them on my 18" dolls that aren't and never will be AG.

Anonymous said...

I've seen this twice now - once 2-3 years ago with a big Etsy shop and then again this summer with again another big Etsy shop. Thinking they (AG) really target the bigger Etsy accounts that sell a lot in a very short period of time. Plus the 2 Etsy shops that I know that were hit with "trademark infringement" sew mass quantities of each item, almost making it seem like a mass manufactured item versus something a grandma would make as a hobby and sell on Etsy. Just my two cents for the Etsy shop owners.
Now as far as AG & Mattel go - if you didn't want people using your name on items they sew for their Etsy shops then why oh why did you partner with Simplicity Patterns?!?!?!?! Don't put you name of something and expect us sewers not to use your name, your pattern and not give you credit for making a wonderful pattern! It makes no sense! In my Etsy postings, I always give credit to where I got the pattern from unless I designed it myself. By using American Girl in my listing title, I'm giving you first credit, top billing and the most advertising then any other doll brand. Don't you think people will start googling "18" dolls" to see what other brands there are out there? And with AG being at the top end of the retail scale, don't you think that people will opt for a less expensive doll? Doesn't make sense AG-Mattel? I'm at a loss with AG-Mattel and this tactic. :(

Requiem said...

It's a legal necessity folks. If they don't do it this way it can affect their trademark. Trademarks, if they become too common and the default word for something, can fall out of trademark. This isn't personal on Mattel's part. It's just the way system of copyright and trademark law work in the U.S. You don't like it? Learn more about fair use, copyright law, trademark law, and then write your congress person. Frankly, if you really want to be peeved at something over this sort of thing, be peeved at Disney. They do the same kind of thing, and it's thanks to them (and the possibility of Mickey Mouse moving into the Public Domain) that copyright law has become even more draconian and lasts far longer than it used to.

Cathy Waskewicz said...

I just wish Etsy would hurry up and get everyone on board....I changed all my listings about 9 months ago, and my sales went to nil, as the search engines are picking up on those that still have American Girl in the listing....How's a girl supposed to make a living???? Etsy really needs to put out guidelines to everyone, and then enforce them across the board.

Dahlia Bronson said...

I love the way you have handled this question; and with such humor. And, I love that my cursor is a black mustache on your page.

I have decided to crop out the dolls faces. Anyone who buys from me already knows that I sew for American girl dolls, among a few others. I took out the exact phrase "American Girl Doll" several years ago; and I have the disclaimer in my listings. But, I am going to put the disclaimer up in my shop announcement, with apologies to my customers.

I was very much involved in the postings on Doll Bazaar on FB, and decided that now would be a good time to downsize and sew the doll clothing that I've always wanted to sew and never have time because I need to make things for my shop. I have all those Freebie Friday patterns and at least 3 dozen or more of other hand-crafted patterns that I've bought online - all which I never have taken the time to use more than 3 or 4. Takes too long to learn a new pattern and make the size adjustments to fit my sewing style and machine. I've said I was going to scale back for a couple of years, and now I'm ready to really do it.

Again, thank you for giving me laughs at the end of a long day.

Carol Fulton said...

Awesome post and right on. Hopefully everyone this could affect will read this and do whatever they think is best- like get rid of the "name" American doll that is a girl aka "American Girl" trademark.

Boofli's Closet

Melody Silverleaf said...

Very interesting. I like how you give examples of what is acceptable. That is extremely helpful and shows that you don't have to completely eliminate AG from your listing, just rephrase it a bit.

I have to agree with Requiem in noting that there is nothing personal in the enforcement of copyright laws. These laws are there to protect creative property. JK Rowling and Scholastic/Warner Brothers keep a tight hold on all things HP.

The part I find most intriguing is the use of the doll as a model. Yes, you can take the photo from the neck down (a lot of store mannequins don't have heads) or crop out the faces; however, that seems to be crossing over a different line. The model has been purchased for your enjoyment and use. If they come down on Etsy models, will they then turn their focus on the doll blogging community? Should that happen it would be a HUGE blow to the doll community and I'm thinking sales would be hit very hard. Just something to think about.

LelleModa said...

I just LOVE the post! It's simply perfect!

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