SEIBEI vs. Goodie Two Sleeves: rip-off or coincidence?

Recently, a few designers alerted me to a shirt that was just released on Hot Topic by the company Goodie Two Sleeves that resembled a shirt that I first made in early 2005, and released that summer as one of my first designs under my company SEIBEI.

I’ve been debating whether to make this a public matter or not – I’ve talked to friends, people in the industry, a lawyer, the heads of Goodie Two Sleeves, and, through proxy, higher-ups at Hot Topic, and I’m still not entirely sure.

Goodie Two Sleeves claims the resemblance is completely unintentional, and though offers were made, none of them included the removal of the shirt, which is all I wanted in the first place. Regardless of how the shirt came to be, its presence on the market hurts us. Since I don’t have the time or the money to waste on a drawn-out legal battle, it seems like there’s nothing I can do.

Anyway, it’s not up to me to say whether this is a copy or not – though there are a number of similar elements, they may have come about independently of one another. What I want you to know, however, is that I was here first. The Sandwich Dinosaur is one of our oldest, best-selling designs, and it’s right at the heart of SEIBEI, so having a similar item being distributed in a retailer that’s in nearly every mall in America really hurts, and could potentially damage my business with the independent boutiques that carry us. SEIBEI has been all I’ve done for the past three years, and it’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of setbacks, and a lot of late nights, so I don’t want to have someone in a Goodie Two Sleeves Awesome Monster shirt see the Sandwich Dinosaur, ever, and think that mine came along second, regardless of the circumstance.

You can Digg this story here and help me get the word out.

35 comments

  • Your shirt is better, IMO. A monster with a speech bubble does not seem out of the realms of possibility for someone else to have come up with, so it’s going to be a hard battle to fight.

  • well, i understand, that it hurts you. but a t-rex shown from the side with a speech bubble…there must be thousands out there. and it DOES look different.
    i don’t consider this a copy…

  • but their girl is hotter

  • Yeah, I did a design similar to this in 1995. Don’t feel too ripped.

  • Word – duly noted. I realize that there are plenty of shirts out there with dinosaurs on them saying things, and people have alerted me about other shirts like that before and I’ve brushed it off since it was plenty different, but this is the only one that gave me pause.

  • I think the idea is pretty generic. so I wouldn’t consider the other a rip. Sorry but, I do like the other one better.

  • Sorry, guys, but this IS a rip. Any competent lawyer familiar with visual-media copyright would file suit in a Wall Street minute.

    Don’t let this die, David. Sue the bastards.

    Good luck, hon.

  • You can Digg David’s original blog post to help spread the word: http://digg.com/design/Hot_Topic_Inspired_by_Independent_Designer

  • > Sorry, guys, but this IS a rip. Any competent lawyer familiar with
    > visual-media copyright would file suit in a Wall Street minute.

    Out of curiosity, your opinion is more valid because…..why? Are you a “competent lawyer familiar with visual-media copyright?”

  • Uhm, Melissa? I am guessing that in a court of law, a lawyer would have to provide actual evidence that the idea was in fact directly taken from SEIBEI—declaring with no proof whatsoever that “this IS a rip” is not going to make a very strong impression on any judge. Furthermore, since none of the artwork itself nor the slogan is actually stolen, I doubt very much that any lawyer would touch that case with a 10 foot pole. Since you’re obviously a legal leviathan, why don’t you take the case pro bono?

    David, I don’t think this will hurt you too much. I think your design will continue to be one of your best sellers. I also think that the type of person who shops at the small independent boutiques that sell your shirt are not likely to be Hot Topic shoppers, and vice versa.

    For what it’s worth, I like your design better, and the slogan is way cuter.

  • Hey look, someone’s dropping knowledge:

    The Law:
    You wouldn’t have to show that the design was taken directly from SEIBEI. I am going to try not to go TOO deeply into this, but to demonstrate copyright infringement you would have to show evidence of both access and similarity, which are weighed according to a sliding scale. This means that the greater the access Goodie Two Sleeves haf to the shirt (the difference between the president of Goodie Two Sleeves owning the shirt and the shirt just being released on the SEIBEI website) the less evidence you need of substantial similarity.

    The Application:
    These two shirts are similar, but as others have voiced here, they are not identical or even close to identical. So if similarity is not too great, there would have to be very strong evidence of Access. If it can be shown that a Goodie Two Sleeves designer owns the SEIBEI shirt or has visited the SEIBEI website that would help your case. Short of that, there isn’t much of a case here.

    Conclusion:
    The idea of a dinosaur with a word bubble is embodied in one way in the SEIBEI shirt, in another different way in the Goodie Two Sleeves Shirt, and in other different ways in other shirts I and others have seen elsewhere. Each company can and might have the copyright in their particular chosen embodiment of the idea of a Dinosaur with a word bubble shirt, but no one can have a copyright in the idea. Ideas are not copyrightable.

    DISCLAIMER: Neither the reader nor anyone else should consider this comment to be an invitation for any attorney-client relationship and should not rely on the information as legal advice for any purpose. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information included here without seeking legal advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Brian expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any contents here. This comment is not secure or confidential, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  • you could probably get them to agree to give you a largish sum of money if you agree to settle out of court. doubt they would stop selling the t if you went down that road though.

  • I think the joke is on anyone that actually wears that awful shirt. “I’m pretty much awesome” WTF DOES THAT MEAN?! That is dumb.

    There wouldn’t be a long legal drawn out battle, they would settle with you. But you must consider the fact that they won’t cover your legal bills and is it worth it? Personally I’d just spread the word like your doing right now and not worry about that shirt actually selling. It’s awful.

  • would anyone consider a shirt that said “make me a sandwich” but with a totally different graphic and typeface a rip off.

  • Not even close to a rip. Are you next going to claim that you invented the t-shirt and any t-shirt is a rip of yours…

  • Hey, that’s why I brought it up – there are just some similar design elements that made me feel it was a little close for comfort.

    But, to my credit, Hot Topic has agreed to not reorder the design, so the ones in test markets will sell, which is no big, and then it’s over…presumably.

  • Ripoff Artist

    Excellent Guav and 5000!, thinking the exact same thing.

  • Brian, thanks a million for the insight. Very interesting!

  • I don’t think it’s a rip. Unless you invented talking dinosaurs. Then it would be a rip.

    People have drawn every animal in the world. There’s only so many ways to draw a cutesy dinosaur. I’ve drawn something similar before and I put speech bubbles on stuff when I’ve got people watching me (or have something to say).

  • I know I’m late in this game but I wanted to drop a line to say that I think it is a rip. The positioning, the bubble, the line thickness, the breaking of the last word of the bubble’s text…all separately, they could be shrugged off as coincidence. But together? I think you are being severely flattered. By which I mean imitated. But I’m sure you’ve taken the weekend and achieved zenlike acceptance already, so what the hell am I going on about?

  • nope.. not a rip. same idea but if somebody asked me to draw a dinosaur talking, provided i haven’t seen your design before, i might come up doing a little close to that kind of dinosaur. too typical.

  • I don’t know how many times i’ve seen a cartoon dino talking. Both are boring and unoriginal.

  • Seriously, dude, did you invent the “Dinosaur”? Or even the talking dinosaur? Your indignation makes me laugh. Get over yourself.

  • david, you’re an ego maniac.

  • come on. your shirt was such an obvious idea in the first place you can hardly cry that someone does something SIMILAR (far from the same).

    make something really far out and different or deal with the fact that you are as unoriginal as they are.

  • Look, Tinymeat.com has this problem too… we make vinyl accessories (wallets etc) and there’s a very popular company that does the same but is very sore about us existing. they have attempted to do our business harm through negative word of mouth , accusations of idea theft etc. and without going into why we’re innocent of all accusations, we are, but even moreso we are good for the market, there are options now for the consumer, it’s all good…and now that people have read this article (here and elsewhere) your merch may see some boost in sales because of it. and it really isn’t a rip off. sometimes ideas happen that way.

  • owning an artist driven brand … i usually side on the side of the under dog in these cases.

    i think that this case really falls into a gray area.

    i truly believe the rip off artist DID see your original piece and WAS inspired by the idea … and as noted, it is a simple enough idea that could be reproduced by accident and still resemble the original

    … so to say it is a full blown rip off is a hard sell. Brian P’s point about proving ownership of the original or visiting your site by the rip off artist would be the only hope of making a case.

    so many brands are doing inspirational rip offs these days … i think that unless it is a reasonable fac-simili of the original … the case is moot.

    we did a inspired rip off of an 80s powell peralta skate shirt for our line … but because we made some serious alterations to the original … and re drew the piece by hand instead of just photoshopping the original … i believe it is legit.

    … i still think it’s wack (not the art, this particular case)!

  • The Goody Two Sleeves tshirt looks like a line out of the Qwantz dinosaur comic…coincidence?

  • I’m kinda surprised people are still talking about this so long after the fact – I haven’t checked this in a week or so.

    Anyway, this isn’t a design I really labored over – if you look at my stuff you’ll see that I’m not all simple cartoons, and I’m definitely not breaking new ground or anything. Regardless, it’s somehow one of my best sellers, and with the number of people that independently contacted me about this prior to me making it a public issue, I was a bit concerned.

    Either way, it’s been settled, but feel free to call me an egomaniac or laugh at my indignance.

  • Yeah, all you people insulting Dave? Have you MET Dave? Because he is one of the gentlest, friendliest people I know. And it’s not like meeting him is hard. He’s at like a kajillion craft fairs a year. Go say hi to the man and you’ll realize what huge asses you’re making of yourselves.

    Nothing like the Internet to bring out the inner obnoxious 8-year-old in people. Don’t put someone else down just to make yourself feel big.

  • Hmmm, i’m ont sur eif it’s a copy but what i do know is that the “make me a sandwhich” shirt reminds me of the xkcd.com strip http://xkcd.com/149/

    one could state that the concept of begin forced (by either sudo or a big bad dinosaur) is the same here…

  • Pingback: Ripple Junction responds to rip off accusation

  • > Nothing like the Internet to bring out the inner obnoxious 8-year-old in people. Don’t put someone else down just to make yourself feel big.

    I believe I met Dave at a recent crafts fair in San Francisco (July 2008). I really liked the dinosaur saying “Make me a sandwich” and thought it was great.

    Given a whole table of talking dinosaurs with word bubbles and some saying make me this or that or I’m awesome, you’re not, etc… I would choose Dave’s design because of how it looks.

    Keep up the work

  • i dont know about the Tshirts. But Goodies model is way hotter

  • sory za up staroy temu, no virazhayu svoyu blagodarnost’, material ochen’ prigodilsya

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