Today is World Intellectual Property Day 2018, and we wanted to discuss with our readers and customers some of the reasons why things like patents, copyright, design and trademarks exist, and why as a design company we adhere to these codes of conduct.
World Intellectual Property Day is observed annually on 26 April. The event was established by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2000 to "raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life" and "to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe".
This years WIPD campaign theme is Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity, which celebrates the “brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.”
The campaign encourages companies and individuals to reflect on ways to ensure women and girls globally have access to creative and innovative experiences, and why this is so important. The celebration also takes the opportunity to highlight why the Intellectual Property system can support creative and innovative endeavours for women bringing their ideas to market.
All of Zoë's creative design work is covered by Intellectual Property law, specifically Copyright. This means that it is against the law for anyone to reproduce her work, especially for profit, and if anyone was to do so, could be taken to court and ordered to pay damages. This is because reproductions of any design work of Zoë's could irreparably damage her reputation as an artist and creator, and result in loss of earnings.
I'm sure you've all heard the phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, but when it comes to design work, imitation is nearly always an insulting and frustrating process for many artists and designers. Often people view Zoë's work and state “I could do that myself”. Perhaps you could, dear customer, but it will not be the same, and is morally reprehensible.
Copyright is obtained automatically by the creator, and does not need registering. Zoë places signs in her office where her stationery work is displayed, that state photography is not permitted. This is to prevent people from stealing her designs and passing them off as their own. For the same reason, Zoë will never fully replicate design work completed by someone else. Often our stationery customers come in and show Zoë images they have collected from across the internet, on Pinterest, Google Images, Instagram, etc, and say “This is what I want”. Thankfully most of our customers understand that design work cannot (and should not) be replicated. If you want the exact work you've found then the best way to go about it, is to contact the original artist. There will always be some designers who will copy work without a second thought, but Zoë is not one of them. Drawing ideas from existing work is one thing: copying something outright is not something LMSB would ever be comfortable doing.
However, we do understand that our clients have very specific tastes, and we will always have a full and frank discussion with you about what elements of the design you specifically like, what don't you like, how does it make you feel? How would you feel if the colours were different? What if we do it like this? Do you like the font? What happens if we adjust the elements? This way we can modify the design style you have presented and create something unique and special just for you.
As designers we are inspired by all kinds of things, and lots of designers – Zoë included – share their work online with pride, and of course we can often only learn design skills by imitating them. That does not mean we should, could, or will outright copy someone's work. We would much rather work with you to create something brand new, awesome and beautiful, by building on the design traits you love the most.
It is especially important for Zoë to continue to be innovative in her creative work, as a female designer and business owner, because according to Ruth Sykes, Associate Lecturer in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins - “Graphic design history has largely foregrounded the achievements of male graphic designers, leaving the contribution of female graphic designers under-examined.“ 
Statistics continue to show that there is massive gender disparity in design, for example, a recent Design Economy research report found the UK’s design workforce is 78% male, 22% female, and shows enormous discrepancies between male and female designers when it comes to wages, for example 83% of the total male design workforce earns an average of £606 per week or more, which is above the national average, however within the clothing sector workforce, (68% of which are female) are the lowest median gross weekly salary earners within the design community, at £250 per week. 
Old fashioned gender stereotypes are part of the problem, and design education is often still divided into resistant materials for boys, and textiles for girls – neither of these career options require the use of specific genitals – sewing machines are operated with hands and/or feet, as are circular saws, so it seems reductive and unnecessarily restrictive to say one is for girls and one is for boys.
Zoë has fallen victim to this institutionalised sexism in previous jobs. I asked her if she could recall a time when she felt disadvantaged at work, and she told me:
“I loved the job, but the situation was unfair. Each week all the work was supposed to be distributed evenly, with each person taking on between seven and 10 jobs a week. With six of us in the office this should have worked really well. But as more and more work came in, it was always given to me – I am thankfully an efficient worker and I am really proud of this, but my managers and colleagues used this to their advantage, leaving me overworked and underpaid.
"Other members of staff would struggle to reach deadlines, so their work was passed to me as well, so it would get finished on time and we wouldn't lose clients. This meant I was averaging about 30 design jobs a week. On top of this, I was in charge of doing the marketing work for the company. To say I had an enormous workload is an understatement!
"After some time at the company I was lined up to take on the role of Office Coordinator when the previous person moved to a different role. I took on the role, but it soon came to light I was not going to be given the pay rise I was promised, despite now carrying out a more senior role, in addition to my ever expanding design work load.
"One day, a member of the finance department let slip the salary information of a male colleague – who had the same role and responsibility as myself – who was earning more than four thousand pounds per year more than me. It was completely wrong of the finance team member to give me that information, and it was completely accidental, but I was furious, and so upset that I wasn't being given a fair wage despite being a hard worker with a great reputation.
"I am absolutely convinced that this was institutionalised sexism, and a perfect example of women being disadvantaged in the work place simply for being female. This was one of the main reasons I decided to take the plunge into self employment, and I've never looked back.”
Gender equality is a human right. You can read more about how innovation and creativity are hindered by the gender pay gap in this piece on the World Intellectual Property Day website.
When you decide to steal someone's designs you are also stealing their livelihood. Zoë is not a faceless multinational corporation. She's an ambitious young woman with talent living in an economy that is struggling to support anyone, let alone independent businesses. Please think about that when you're browsing Pinterest for ideas.
And finally, I'd like to take some time to appreciate our Zoë. Zoë is a multi-award winning designer, business owner, and an incredible human being. I know I am super biased but, I love the bones of this girl and she deserves every success that comes her way because she works harder than anyone I know, and always finds time to help other people. Her designs are beautiful and her work ethic is stellar. Anyone who has seen her design work and says, “I could make this myself!”, has no idea what passion and energy Zoë has poured from her soul into the work she does for her clients.
You can read more about WIPD here.
We also want to continue the theme of celebrating female graphic designers by sharing with you 33 Women Doing Amazing Things in Graphic Design.
Lots of love,
1. Wikipedia – World Intellectual Property Day
2. Ruth Sykes - Where are the Women? Gender Disparities in Graphic Design History
3. Design Council - International Women’s Day: Women in Design