Have a Heart, Hot Topic!


Copyright infringement cases relating to jewelry are on the rise, with retailers attempting to make an extra buck by having cheaper knock-offs made of trendy pieces they see in boutiques, magazines, or around town, and then selling those copies to the public. The sine qua non in such a case is substantial similarity, as any attorney with brains can tell you. Mmmmm, brains.


update: Hot Topic has pulled their necklaces from online and apparently from sales floors while they “investigate”


I’d love some outside opinions on this one. I’ve been making these I Heart Brains Best Friends Necklace Sets since 2010. Soon after posting them they were featured in a variety of different places online and I ended up with orders my two hands couldn’t keep up with. This is the first green set I sold:

and hot topics recent version of the same thing:

The part that gets me the most is there are many ways to make brains and the way I’ve specifically chosen to do them isn’t the same as a real brains texture. It’s a technique I use because of my medium of polymer clay, which is not the medium they’ve used. It feels like a copy to me and even gave my guts a churnin’ once I stumbled on them. After contacting hot topic and getting no response, I was wondering what others might think

Posted by beatblack  |  30 Comments  |  in Design, Fashions, jewelry, Retail


  1. Jason 10/25/2013 7:09 pm

    Sorry to jump in on this so late. The zombie brain thing has been around longer than 2010. I am a graphic designer in the apparel industry and I’ve seen these things around since 1995. There are many other ones too including stick figures of people (better half). Also etsy is the number one rip of place to begin with. Very few people actually post original stuff on etsy.

    The brain concept has been big for a long, long time as zombies have been a cash cow industry for years. Being the first on etsy does not make you the first in the world.

  2. Anonymous 01/21/2013 8:34 am

    The funny thing about Hot Topics jewelry? Most of it contains LEAD, even their new “Blackheart” stuff. It’s cheaper because it’s made with extremely cheap materials, where yours are actually made with legitimate, quality materials.

  3. Adam 10/25/2012 1:01 pm

    I’m just checking your Etsy site and I’m speechless. Love your art work. You have a new fan.

  4. Shila 10/10/2012 9:23 am

    Even the brain lines are identical to the original, it’s a clear copy.

  5. TheArtist Assena V 10/09/2012 7:14 am

    I say, find out who the buyer and supplier is, and send them a bill. That is straight up YOUR design in their picture.

  6. Kendelle 09/26/2012 3:55 pm

    I’d suggest that you talk to a “no win, no fee” lawyer about taking them on! In this case, you only pay a fee if you are successful but I am sure you would be in receiving some type of damages from HT. Your design looks much nicer and at $20 a pop for each necklace, is pretty darn reasonable. Good luck with it!

  7. Anonymous 09/14/2012 1:35 am

    Yours is better.

  8. tom 09/03/2012 1:22 am

    Can we start to remove comments like Darko’s comment above? He/She/It/Sheeit doesn’t say anything pertaining to the conversation’s topic, and is kind of a troll besides.

  9. Boycotts May Work 08/20/2012 4:08 pm

    That is so horrible! They can’t do something like that! The original creator should get full credit. I would contact Hot Topics about it. If they don’t do anything, tell everyone to BOYCOTT the stores, and maybe then they’ll respond!

  10. Ann Nonymous 08/14/2012 9:06 pm

    The Chinese are ruthless and care nothing of copyright laws. They buy an item on Etsy or another source and then mass produce the F&*K out of it. Hot Topic I ma sure did not know until they were contacted by the rightful original owner. Hot Topic should do the right thing and not carry these fakes and fraudulent copies of the artists original work.

  11. Kim Phillips 08/13/2012 12:37 pm

    A work is copyrighted the instant it is created, according to US copyright law.

  12. kotowate 08/10/2012 4:35 pm

    Funny thing is that the pattern is the same on both pieces. Which makes me wonder how that could happen (mold or maybe original author has bought pieces in China). As it is not stealing idea but actual work.

  13. Anonymous 08/08/2012 2:06 am

    I can’t belive peole rip off like that…

    UGH. Can I please get the true, I Heart Brains Necklace, THEN HIT THOSE RIP-OFFS OVER THE HEAD? Show them what real work feels like. >:I

  14. Anonymous 08/05/2012 7:52 am

    Good info Tabby and I would say to keep trying to contact them, maybe have a lawyer give in a call and see if you can’t get something out of it. You never know, they might be cool. Although it is HT

  15. Jessica 08/03/2012 3:36 am

    I don’t know what you people are saying about blaming the 3rd party because I’m PRETTY SURE a store SHOULD be responsible for what they sell.

  16. Tabby Caat 08/02/2012 6:30 am

    Most of the posts on this site are just people whining because someone else made something similar, as if they could copyright an *idea*. But in THIS case, they didn’t just copy the idea of a broken heart designed as brains, they copied specific details of your design – the same “brain loops” on each half of the heart. IMHO, that takes it from “inspired by” (and thus fair game) to “copied” (and thus a copyright violation).

    See these copyright cases:

    Fatboy Slim’s album photo rip-off of Ernst Haas “Sunset Silhouette”: http://business.highbeam.com/2025/article-1G1-93613520/getty-collects-fatboy-slim-infringement

    Koon’s sculpture rip-off of Roger’s photo of puppies:

    A key thing that protected Rogers and Haas that allowed them to successfully win their cases was that in each case copyright was “perfected” – registered with the LOC. If your design wasn’t registered within 90 days of when you first “published” your work, then you may not have the full protection copyright law provides, and thus not be eligible for punitive damages, and that greatly limits your ability to sue. (Suing for copyright infringement can be VERY expensive. If you can’t recover punitive damages you are likely to spend more in legal fees than you will recover. The game is loaded to benefit those who can afford big lawyers, those who are “small players” get screwed, unless they filed with LOC to perfect their copyright.) So while you may have lost the opportunity to sue for this particular infringement, you might want to think about taking steps to properly copyright your work going forward. For most artists, you can copyright a “collection” of multiple items in one filing, so if you file every 90 days (e.g. once every 3 months) then you only need to file 4 times a year to cover all your items.

  17. aniko 08/02/2012 5:09 am

    frankly, yours looks way cooler AND it’s handmade, I dont know why they are even trying :/ what they are doing is complete bullcrap. Sorry that this happened to you, it should never happen :(

  18. beatblack 08/02/2012 2:48 am

    thank you for all the support… and even the opinions on the other side. you have no idea how much i appreciate them.

    shynia, all my work is copyright the minute I make it. It’s true that they’re a chain store but its also true that it’s unethical to carry merchandise with designs that are stolen from anyone. Even hot topic will say they don’t want to be associated with that kind of thievery

  19. Anonymous 08/02/2012 2:19 am

    NO ONE should be able take credit for something that isn’t thiers! THIS IS VERY WRONG!!!

  20. JEANETmarie 08/02/2012 2:06 am

    Chloe has made a good point. Those who want a high quality original art will buy from you and those who want cheap goods won’t. Do a marketing rip of their rip- off. Position your necklace as the original and theirs as a cheap sweat shop imitation. Your work looks much better than the knock-off. All the best to you. Cheers.

  21. chloe 08/01/2012 11:30 pm

    I think it could be a knock off but there are people who will want quality original art and will buy yours and there are people who probably wouldn’t have bought yours anyway who will like the cheap version. They probably should have given you something for the idea tho.

  22. shynia 08/01/2012 10:26 pm

    Think about its not hot topic who makes the product. Hot topic is a chain store like Safeway and walmart. And you know how they all sell different brands its not hottopic’s fault its the designers of the brand company. Yes I do believe it is a ripoff but did you copyright your work?

  23. kathleen 08/01/2012 9:20 pm

    Gee Darko, why don’t YOU attempt to create or design a single one of those cheap bits of plastic you rather buy from some factory in China. Oh don’t worry about the toxic paints they use and that the factory gives the workers one day off out of 21 days and pays them less than our minimum wages! We really don’t need your support after all, buy what’s cheapest for you and you can throw your money out with it ! Have a sun shinny day!

  24. Nicole 08/01/2012 9:05 pm

    People saying her art isn’t worth what she charges has never made anything with clay. It’s not easy… I picked it up because of her i loved it and it’s so time consuming.

    HT stuff will break easily and is cheaply made. I stand behind her 100% and hope they stop selling ripoffs…

  25. Caitlin 08/01/2012 8:39 pm

    You realize hot topic buys from a third party in most situations right? Be mad at that 3rd party that ripped off your shit if you are going to be mad at someone. In all honesty though, it is the way of the world. If it wasn’t hottopic it would be mod clothe, or forever 21 or someone else. Anyone who is willing to buy it from them wouldn’t be willing to pay the price you as asking for it, be happy for a customer base that will stay loyal to you.

  26. Shannon 08/01/2012 8:22 pm

    It’s completely disgusting how large companies rip artists off like this and steal their ideas. I’m outraged. I know the hard work, money, and heart it takes to put into your art. And I’d MUCH RATHER spend $40 on the original necklace then some crappy Hot Topic necklace because I know yours is quality and the work an artist puts into a single handmade piece is more than worth it to me.

  27. Anonymous 08/01/2012 8:16 pm

    This definitely looks like a complete ripoff. So sad large companies like that play so dirty and then don’t give you the time of day, when really you’re the one designing their products, eh?

  28. Darko 08/01/2012 8:12 pm

    Id rather buy from ht because that is not worth $40 at all.

  29. Jessika 08/01/2012 6:49 pm

    I’ve come to browse sites like etsy etc., for ooak-designers. I like to follow the one who was first with an original concept but it’s becoming more difficult. I wish that it was easier to keep track of what’s what but its certainly not easy.
    I get alot of ideas from design sites, but I can’t understand the step from making things that are based on someone elses idea and SELLING them. How despicable can you really be!

  30. Anonymous 08/01/2012 6:28 pm

    what a bunch of fucking WANKERS that is clearly a RIP OFF of your work !!! give em hell!!

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