The use of social media marketing has seen a massive rise in the past 5 years, with small businesses and up-and-coming designers putting their products out there for the world to like, comment and share. However the global fashion heavyweight Zara has recently come under fire for allegedly stealing the designs of over 22 independent artists, copied and pasted from their online platforms.

Stolen Ideas

Last week, a heated Instagram post by independent illustrator Tuesday Bassen garnered more than 43,000 likes and quickly spread to other social media platforms. The photo depicting an array of side by side images of her original creations alongside Zara’s imitations showed striking similarities between the products.

This isn’t the first time the global conglomerate’s methods have been under media scrutiny. In 2013 fashion designer Tom Ford called out Zara for their copy and paste methods in an interview with WWD. The incidents seem to have little effect on the company though who brought in €2.9 billion total net income last year (roughly 4.24 billion AUD) and has upcoming plans to expand by 460 more stores globally.

Small Businesses vs Big Corporations

Melbourne based designer, Georgia Perry learned from her Instagram followers that her designs had been used by Zara without her knowledge. She claims that more than 36 pieces of artwork have been stolen and reproduced by Zara in what she describes as art theft.

After failing to hear back from the fashion giant, Perry says that it would not be realistic for small businesses like herself to seek legal action against the multinational corporation.

“I don’t have the time or the resources to pull together a legal team, and if I did I would be up against this monolithic corporation.”

Others like Tuesday Bassen have spent thousands in order to get a response from the company. Bassan is currently working on registering copyrights on all her designs and is preparing to press charges despite the financial costs involved.

How can you protect yourself?

The growing presence of e-commerce and social media has enhanced accessibility for people all over the world to browse from an international selection of products. However alongside the convenience and ease afforded by the internet is the higher risk of plagiarism and intellectual theft. More than ever, small businesses and designers need to take precautionary measures to protect their products.

Registering a design early on can prevent competitors and other businesses from using your designs. Early registration of your designs can minimise the risk of potential conflict over copyright and prevent any unauthorised use of your designs. More information on the benefits of registering a design can be found here.

Will this be enough?

As every design is unique, the process of registration can be complex. To ensure protection of your unique design or to obtain legal advice on a design that has been used without your permission, we recommend seeking advice from an intellectual property attorney.

Let us know your thoughts on the design theft allegations made against Zara by tagging us #lawpath or @lawpath.

Jennifer Wang

Jennifer is a Paralegal, working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a keen interest in media and IP law, her research focuses on the evolving role of the law to navigate new and emerging information platforms.