Sign writer is very angry

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
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Spoon77
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Sign writer is very angry

Post by Spoon77 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:03 pm

Hi

I went to a van sign writer and he presented me with my company name in a certain font: Stoves at Aberdeen (town name changed).

During a joint session on his computer we ended up with the "at" on its side in red in a black box.

For various reasons (I lost confidence in first guy) a few months later I went to see another sign company and showed them the work.

They said they could not use the "at" bit but using the font was okay because it was proprietory.

I went with the second company.

We signed my van using the same font with the word "at" in orange (not in any box or anything). The new company made me a new logo out of the "o" (a pod stove with orange fire in it).

The first guy saw my van and phoned me very irate. He said the idea is his and he's taken people to court before and he is going to send me a solicitors letter or smalls claims court or whatever unless I pay him £240 as the copyright is his. He has sent me abill for this amount. We never, by the way ever discussed a fee.

Where do I stand?

Thank you

Jules

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:48 pm

Hi Spoon,
This sounds very petty. I assume that first sign writer is claiming copyright in the complete design (ie the overall look and feel of his design compared to what you actually went with). Based on just three words, only one of which appears to have any "artistic" element to it, it is hard to see where truly creative input comes into the issue. Clearly the first writer did not design the font, he merely used it for two of the three words, none of which he originated. The one element which appears may be truly original is the "at" on its side, but since you didn't use that bit in the way he designed it, in the final version, he can't claim infringement over that. Since there are only so many ways in which the word "at" can be written, I think that arguing this point alone could be countered with an application for dismissal on the basis of 'de minimis' - ie the point is too trivial to waste the court's time with. The final point at issue could be the positioning of the three words relative to each other. If this was truly 'artistic' and not just a commonplace way of creating a striking effect, then it is just possible this might be the basis of a claim
But on what you have told us, I don't think he has a good case. However, if you do get a solicitor's letter and it spells out that the detail of his claim is quite different to my analysis, it would be advisable to get proper legal advice.
If he decides to go straight down the Small Claims route, make sure that when you receive the Particulars of Claim form from the court, you return it promptly and make it clear in your Denial of the Claim that you at no stage entered into a contractual arrangement with the signwriter, and that the dispute concerns an allegation of copyright infringement, which of course you also deny. The County Courts cannot hear cases concerning copyright so they should strike out the Claim. If for some reason they don't, you will definitely need to get advice from a solicitor to try and get the matter stopped from going ahead in the small claims court. Whatever else you do, make sure you comply with any deadlines set by the court and attend any preliminary hearings or case mangement conferences, otherwise there is the chance of the complainant could obtain summary judgment by default.
The signwriter would need to be either very rich or foolhardy (or both) to proceed with a claim of infringement based on what you have told us. However, it is amazing what angry people will do despite calm advice to the contrary.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Spoon77
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Post by Spoon77 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:08 pm

It is very kind of you to take the time to reply and in such depth. Thank you.

I will think what to do.

I will keep you updated with any developments.

Jules

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