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Hot Topic buys OpenWound FX Gartered Legs “as inspiration of new product” released 6 months later


Below is a ghoulishly good example of the expression-idea dichotomy that we so often discuss here at YTWWN. As our readers know, ideas, as one judge so aptly put it, are “as free as the air.” The expression of a particular idea, though, is subject to protection under the Copyright Act. Below we have two sets of stockings that both depict ghastly flesh wounds. Has Hot Topic taken more than the idea here, or have they crossed the line and taken the expression?

This case is made more interesting by the clear evidence of access. In many cases, it is difficult to prove that the alleged infringer actually got their hands on the allegedly infringed material; but, here, it’s clear: the alleged infringer bought a pair directly from the source. This would trigger what is known as the “inverse-ratio” rule, which requires a lesser showing of substantial similarity to prove infringement.

So, feast your peepers on the two sets of stockings below and answer this question: theft of the idea or theft of expression? And, does the “inverse-ratio” rule affect your decision?

- Scott A. Burroughs, Esq. ([email protected])



I have been selling “Gartered Legs Prosthetics” since 2011 through my company OpenWound FX and I have been creating these prosthetics as a freelance artist since 2008. The Gartered Legs Prosthetics product is very popular and has seen a lot of online media coverage in the past year. The OpenWound FX website is and the shop is on Etsy at Hot Topic ordered a pair of Gartered Legs Prosthetics “as inspiration of new product” in March 2012 and released a very similar “Lesion Thigh Highs” product in September 2012.

On March 2nd, this year, someone named Cindy Mesa ordered a pair of Gartered Legs Prosthetics and I recognized the City of Industry, CA shipping address and checked her name. Based on a profile for a Cindy Mesa of Hot Topic, she is an Assistant buyer for the retail company Hot Topic.

On March 6th, 2012 I sent Cindy the following email:

Hi Cindy,

My name is Meaghan O’Keefe and I am the owner and creator of OpenWound FX. I see that you have ordered a pair of the Gartered Legs Prosthetics. Thank you for your interest! Is Hot Topic looking to stock Gartered Legs?

If so, I’d love to discuss the details with you.

Thank you,

Meaghan O’Keefe

On March 7th, 2012, Cindy responded with the following (there was no non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality note on the bottom of this email)

Hi Meaghan,

Thanks for reaching out to me. I actually just took over the department Monday was officially my first day. We are currently in development with a company who is making thigh high fishnets that have similar prosthetics attached to them. I ordered your as inspiration of new product I wanted to bring to the table only to find out we were already doing something similar. I am not sure if your prosthetics would be right for our customer since it requires a little more TLC to apply. Once I receive the product and take a close look we can definitely talk about if this is actually something we could carry. I will keep in touch.


Cindy Mesa

The Nicest Person In the World

Beauty & Halloween

I sent Cindy the package with a return receipt and a letter in which I offered to work with Hot Topic on a product using my design and voiced my concerns about them making a similar product based on mine without my involvement. I never received a response.

In early September, I was sent an email by a Hot Topic employee who was aware of my company. She sent a photo of the very similar Hot Topic “Lesion Thigh Highs” product that had just been received by her store. Ever since I have received a constant stream of emails from people alerting me of this “similar” product. I have seen the product in person and it is made of the same material and is “eerily similar.” Now that Halloween has passed, I would like to make people aware that Hot Topic’s “inspiration of new product” appears to be the OpenWound FX Gartered Legs Prosthetics that they bought 6 months before releasing their “Lesion Thigh Highs.”


Gartered Legs Prosthetics by OpenWound FX

OpenWound FX Gartered Legs - Photo by Robert Burrows, Model/MUA: Merissa Segedi


OpenWound FX Gartered Legs - Photo by Robert Burrows



Lesion Fishnet Thigh Highs by Hot Topic


Hot Topic Lesion Thigh High


Hot Topic Lesion Thigh High


Hot Topic Lesion Thigh High


Hot Topic Lesion Thigh High





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

If you can’t be ‘Kid Robot’, try stealing

Every now and then I pop into Hot Topic to see who they are ripping off at the moment.  It seems that there is a wholesale ripoff of TADO these days with a line called SO SO HAPPY.  I took a photo of a figure series they had on display and double checked it when I got home.  But it doesn’t stop there, I spied a line of stickers that rips Kid Robot’s BFF series line by Travis Cain as well.

SO SO Happy or TADO?

Rawr! That means thief in dinosaur!

Hot Topic and friends strike again?

So I was checking Facebook not long ago when someone on my friends list posted an image of a T shirt from Hot Topic. Immediately, it looked rather familiar.

Said T shirt can be seen below.


It can be found on sale at Hot Topic. But it originally comes from this company.

Loyal Army, the “original” producer of this T shirt’s main aim is to give people kawaii (Japanese for cute) clothing and accessories. And anyone who is into Japanese pop culture, anything kawaii, and spends enough time on the internet to know anything about Japanese pop culture, they just may recognize the image seen below.

While this is the most popular image depicted. It is actually from this image by ToastyPants from Deviant Art.

I can say I first saw the original quite a few years ago (at least 3-4 years). It’s a rather popular image on the internet, and has come in many variations (as they’ve stated in the description on the deviantart page).

Not to mention, Hot Topic has a reputation for selling rip offs and stolen art from companies that are obviously less than reputable.  When will these companies learn?


The company has been contacted by the original artist and a deal is being struck. It seems they had been mistaken on who the original artist was and had contacted and gotten permission from the wrong individual.


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