Regina woodworking business says ornament design used for cheap replica on foreign website

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A Regina business is offering a cautionary tale about shopping on discount websites after finding a cheap replica of one of its designs for sale.

Sticks and Doodles is a hand-crafted woodworking and ornament store in Regina.

A customer informed the owners after finding a Sticks and Doodles design — a grain elevator ornament — for sale on Temu, a site that ships discounts goods primarily from China, for significantly cheaper.

The Temu replica was going for $2.88, compared to the $19.99 price tag on Sticks and Doodles’s ornament.

small ornament that is a large building that contains grain
A grain elevator ornament replica that was posted on the Temu website. (TEMU website)

Kyle Moffatt, co-owner of Sticks and Doodles, said $2.88 wouldn’t even cover the cost of the acrylic and ink to make the original version of the ornament.

“They literally took our ornament, and they had used my photos, and then they’d even Photoshopped it into other products,” he said. “I was just shocked to see it. Like it was straight up a ripped-off, knocked-off copy of what we had.”

Moffatt said he knows businesses take a chance when they post designs online, but that it is frustrating to see the hard work a designer puts into creating something original diminished.

Sticks and Doodles hired local artist Kelly Lueck from Salient Graphics to design something that would represent small town Saskatchewan. The ornament was the result.

“He worked really hard. We worked for a long time coming up with this design and making it perfect. And I really felt bad for him,” said Moffatt.

LISTEN | Sask. business says Temu ripped off its art: 

The Afternoon Edition – Sask11:42Local Sask. business says Temu ripped off its art

Sticks & Doodles, a Regina-based handcrafted woodworking business, says a Chinese website called Temu has mirrored many of their creations. Kyle Moffatt, co-owner of Sticks and Doodles, talks about safeguarding his art.

Temu spokesperson Kieran Powell provided a statement saying the item was removed on Jan. 12 and that the company had verified there were no other identical items for sale. Powell also said the ornament had been added to a list the company uses to watch out for future listings of the same product.

Powell said Temu is a marketplace where third-party sellers list products and that those sellers signs agreements saying they will abide by legal standards and regulations.

“When we receive reports of infringement, we promptly investigate each case and take appropriate actions, from removing product listings and images to terminating vendor accounts,” Temu spokesperson Kieran Powell said in the statement. 

“Depending on their level of infringement, merchants can be permanently banned from our platform. When they are terminated or banned, their merchandise listings will be removed as well.”

Moffatt said it is hard for a small business to compete with online retailers willing to copy ideas.

He said his business doesn’t have the resources to get into legal fights over designs.

On the other hand, he said Sticks and Doodles has received an outpouring of support since sharing its story online.

“The local community here is amazing,” he said. “We actually sold about 50 of these elevator ornaments yesterday.”

two people standing together while wearing dark sweaters.
Danelle and Kyle Moffatt, co-owners of Sticks and Doodles. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC Sask)

For now, the business will continue to work on creative, unique designs to sell to those who support local businesses.

“When you order from somebody who’s here, they are in your community, and you know the materials they’re using in the process they’re doing is fair, it’s real,” he said. “What you’re going to get is going to be incredible.”

What can a small business do?

Reagan Seidler, an intellectual property lawyer with Smart & Biggar in Toronto, said foreign counterfeiting is a major problem.

“Counterfeiting hurts businesses. It discourages people from bringing new, inventive products to market. But it also hurts consumers. No one wants to get a knockoff product when they’re expecting the real thing,” said Seidler.

“The problem is the small brands don’t always have those tools to fight back.”

Seidler suggests small businesses register copyrights on their product photos. Then, if those photos appear on phony product listings, they can submit an infringement complaint to the e-commerce platform in question.

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