I’m about to do
something I wouldn’t normally do, and share bit of drama concerning another
company. I’ve been trying to keep this professional(ish) but recent happenings
have pushed me to want to talk publicly about it and to make folks aware of
what has been going on.
So you folks might remember I began making Otocinclus
plushies in around November 2016, and they were a big hit! I can’t remember the
exact inspiration that brought me to making suction cup mouthed plushies, but
it was certainly influenced by their name “suckermouth catfish” as
well as other plushies I’d seen online. Little did I know, this would be the
beginning of DRAMA™.
In January 2017 I posted some photos of my Otos in some
local fish groups and was snapped up by a local aquatics shop called New
Concept Aquatics (who are now my business partners, woo!). I gave them some examples
of my work including a suction cup Oto… who was promptly snatched up by a
writer for The Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, UK and was featured in the April
issue! Exciting Stuff!
… However, throughout all this the owner of the company
called Green Pleco, who produces suction-cup mouthed Pleco soft toys, got in
contact with me. They claimed to hold a patent for “soft toys in the shape
of fish with suction cups for mouths” since 2013, demanded I limit
production to 25 a year or pay them royalties for each one sold.
Which would be fair, I suppose, if they actually had a
patent for this. I stopped producing Otos whilst I negotiated with them. They
were not able to give me a patent number. They’re based in the US, and I am in
the UK so even if they did the patent would probably not even exist over here.
At the same time I was doing whole bunch of patent searches
and research, including getting some help from friends and some trainee patent
lawyers on Reddit who couldn’t find this mysterious patent either.
Another hole in this story is that there’s loads of examples
with soft toys with suction cups attached “in the wild” already prior
to 2013, including Plecos! Here’s some examples I could find easily by the
plush artist I admire, Whittykitty:
I actually contacted
Whittykitty and it turns out they’d been contacted by Green Pleco too, despite
their Plecos being made in 2011, before Green Pleco even started making
plushies! Their advice was to just ignore them, and after all this research I
I contacted Green Pleco stating pretty much all this, and after
being unable to come to an agreement they said they’d put me in touch with
their lawyer, which never happened.
I was ready to move on with my life, and Green Pleco had
faded into nothing more than a joke (I’m sorry, you can’t do X because I have X patented). One day I stumbled over to
Green Pleco’s page again, only to see…
Now, this could be some kind of magical coincidence that
Green Pleco has suddenly branched out into a totally different style of printed
fabric, but it does look extremely similar to the plush fish I’ve been
producing recently. HMMMMM.
Oh, look, apparently these are patented too.
Here’s my Corydoras sterbai for comparison:
I’m pretty annoyed, but the purpose behind this post (other than for me to publically vent my rage) is
mostly to let you guys know I have nothing to do with the plushies Green Pleco
are producing; they’re using their own artwork and patterns and are nothing to
do with me.
There’s nothing I can do in this situation, because unlike GP I’m
not claiming to own a patent to “soft toy fish with digital designs
printed on fabric” that I don’t have.
It doesn’t mean to say I can’t be a little bitter about
this, though. Bastards.
This plushie was a long time coming! It was great to have a commission
for something that wasn’t a pony, but it was definitely a big challenge
to make a completely new pattern for a commission.
made from minky with embroidered features and a removable satin and
crepe shirt. Her arms are jointed at the shoulders. Unfortunately,
because of how top heavy Animal Crossing characters are, Pashmina cannot
stand on her own. She’s still great to cuddle though!