When ceramics designer Reiko Kaneko discovered that retailer Joy was selling an almost identical tableware product to her Breakfast Express Train, she decided to take action.
The item – called the Egg and Soldiers Train – looked extremely like Reiko Kaneko’s ceramic Breakfast Express Train, and was being imported by gifts and interior accessories supplier Sifcon International plc.
Reiko Kaneko’s Breakfast Express is a bone china train set with birch wheels and ‘coaches’ which attach with hidden magnets. It is one of Reiko Kaneko’s original tableware designs made in Staffordshire and has been featured in several publications including the ‘Independent Magazine’ in November 2011, ‘Utopia Kitchen & Bathroom’ magazine in April 2012 and ‘Observer Food Monthly’ magazine in November 2015. The product has also been displayed at many exhibitions in the UK and France since its launch in 2011.
The almost identical Egg and Soldiers Train was found to be, by comparison, a cheap imitation made by a factory in China and offered to customers in the UK.
Reiko Kaneko is a member of ACID (Anti Copying in Design). When she discovered the Egg and Soldiers Train in Joy, she instructed lawyer Gavin Llewellyn (of ACID legal affiliate firm Stone King LLP), to write to Joy asserting the company’s rights in the unregistered design.
Contact was also made with Sifcon, which was importing the same items. Joy revealed that it had bought its items from Sifcon. Both parties denied any knowledge of the alleged infringement.
Following negotiations, Sifcon has agreed not to import any further items of the novelty breakfast set and both Joy and Sifcon have assured Reiko Kaneko that they were not aware of any issues of design infringement over the product, which was being offered as an off-the-shelf item in the Far East. Sifcon has also paid damages to Reiko Kaneko on the items it imported.
Reiko Kaneko said: “I’m relieved to have been able to put a stop to the Egg and Soldiers Train being imported. It has certainly encouraged me to stand up for my creative works in the future, and I’m grateful to ACID and Stone King solicitors for resolving the matter so effectively.”
Gavin Llewellyn said: “Designs which are the output of many years of learning a craft and creative thinking can often be ruined by cheap imitations flooding the market, which take away their exclusivity and appeal.
“It’s vital to protect this creativity and the viability of the business which depends upon it. The various rights which the law creates to protect designs of all types is complex, but it usually does provide a remedy – and I’m delighted that Reiko Kaneko was able to achieve a good outcome in this case.
“It’s important in all cases to act quickly and let retailers and importers know about your rights, so as to limit ongoing damage to your business.
“Increasingly, talented ceramics designers like Reiko Kaneko are not prepared to stand back and see much larger retailers and importers free-ride on the back of their creativity. Why should they? IP [Intellectual Property] respect should be at the heart of their corporate social responsibility and the onus is on retailers and importers to check the intellectual property ownership of goods they import to sell.”
Reiko Kaneko designs fine bone china; glassware and terracotta. After studying at Central Saint Martins, she started out designing a range of products which she made around the world. But it was the pleasure of working with ceramicists in The Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, and tapping into over two centuries of knowledge in fine bone china that led her to concentrate on ceramics – and in 2012 she moved her studio from London to Stoke-on-Trent.
Reiko Kaneko’s Breakfast Express Train