So we dedicated the book to him.
We decided to personalize the inside of the front and back covers with illustrations of our dogs and our friends dogs and other random dogs. So we put the word out to everyone we knew, they sent us photos, and we drew portraits which became the end pages.
Last September someone from another design studio contacted us saying they had seen our dogs on a T-shirt being sold through a major retailer. Our first reaction was that it was probably just other dog illustrations that looked very similar to ours. We looked at the online version and thought we recognized some of the dogs, but to be sure we bought the t-shirt so we could take a closer look.
If we take our drawings and flip them horizontally, the images line up and do look strikingly similar to our dogs. We believe that all 27 T-shirt dogs originated from our book.
The T-shirt is also part of an advertising campaign for a movie, and was packaged with a hangtag advertising the movie.
We have seen our work show up in unexpected places before, but nothing like this. Bewildered, we felt compelled to make things right. So we entered into a lawsuit that is now more than 8 months in the making.
We've been keeping this on a low-profile, treating it as just a part of business and continuing our regular work, but the lawsuit has affected our lives. For months we have gone through a mix of emotions, ranging from outrage, sadness and even embarrassment when we realized that the lawsuit—which was being blogged about by a copyright lawyer—was showing up on the first page of a google search under "Modern Dog Design."
We don't want potential clients to think that we are litigation-prone, and we are hesitant to say anything that could potentially be used against us as the dispute is not settled. But people we barely know have come up and asked us about the case, and our desire to preserve the reputation of our studio compels us to speak up now.
My business partner and I both teach, and we realize that most students really don't understand copyright law. Ethical questions aside, we are always surprised at what many think is okay.
So what do you think? We ask that the dialogue remain civil and polite, and even if you know—or think you know who the other parties are involved—please don't identify them in your comment. Thanks!