Anthropologie issues apology after copyright infringement accusations

Anthropologie has issued an apology after it was accused of infringing copyright by selling goods imitating an artist’s designs without permission.

Earlier this week the fashion and homewares retailer was faced with a social media backlash after Tara Burke, a Australian artist, shared a post in Instagram laying bare the similarities between her designs and the retailer’s.

The post, in which she referred to Anthropologie as “scum”, explains that she was approached by the retailer in 2016 with “to discuss ‘how we could collaborate together.”

View this post on Instagram

Bit of a long post ahead so in sum: @anthropologie is scum In February 2016, @anthropologie visited my studio in Sydney to discuss 'how we could collaborate together’. During the visit, they photographed my ceramics and we chatted about how I work. They proposed the idea of me designing and prototyping some vases for @anthropologie, which they would then produce on a larger scale to sell. I declined (it just wasn’t the direction I wanted to take my business) and we went our separate ways. In 2018, @anthropologie sold the vases pictured. The photos with a blue background are @anthropologie vases and all other photos are from my own Instagram account (from 2015 and 2016). After debating whether or not to post publicly about this for the better part of the year (I know this is not the first nor will it be the last time something like this happens), I decided staying quiet felt too much like letting them get away with it and I didn’t feel like doing @anthropologie any favours. With gift-giving season approaching, please consider carefully who you’ll be supporting with your precious money. Buy local! Support small businesses! Thanks for reading x #ceramics #australianceramics #anthropologie

A post shared by Tara Burke (@taraburkestudio) on

After a company representative took photos of her designs and asked if she wanted to design some items for the retailer, Burke declined.

Two years later, Burke was shown Anthropologie’s vases by a friend and subsequently sent the retailer’s legal team a letter of inquiry, but received no response.

Burke’s post has since gone viral, gaining thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.

“The welfare of our artist community is a priority for Anthropologie,” the retailer, which has now withdrawn the products in question, said in a statement.

“We take intellectual property very seriously, both in protecting what has been developed by our own artists and designers and also respecting the intellectual property and designs of others, and we have systems in place for protecting creators’ rights.

“We deeply regret that in this instance our safe-guards did not hold up to our standards. We have tremendous respect for the artist community and are exploring how we can further strengthen our protocols. The product in question is no longer available and we are directly reaching out to Tara Burke.”

“We deeply regret that in this instance, our safeguards did not hold up to our standards.

“We have tremendous respect for the artist community and are exploring how we can further strengthen our protocols.

“The product in question is no longer available and we are reaching out directly to Tara Burke.”

Anthropologie is understood to have called Burke since issuing the apology to discuss the matter, but as of yet has offered no form of compensation.

This is not the first time the retailer, which is owned by Urban Outfitters, has been accused of infringing intellectual property.

A similar post on Instagram was made by jewellery designer Laurel Hill, which compared nearly identical sets of earrings, one showing her own designs and one sold by Anthropologie.

The retailer originally bought a range of earrings from Hill in 2014, but she declined a reorder because the price was too low.

Years later she saw an identical set of earrings being sold by Anthropologie.

Hill’s emails were allegedly ignored for weeks, before the earrings were eventually removed from sale when the post was made public in December 2017.

Anthropologie said it had no role in the design or production of the earrings and purchased them from an independent domestic vendor, who made contact with Hill directly to resolve the issue.

Earlier this year Urban Outfitters was also embroiled in a intellectual property dispute with ceramicist Sarah Wilton, who accused the company of imitating her pieces, which were later removed from sale.

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