Organisation using design without permission? Advice - explanation inside :)


New Member
Hi All,

A friend of mine who is not a graphic designer but actually a landscape architect went for an interview about 2 months ago to a large and well known 'organisation.' (large public attraction) She was asked to submit ideas as part of her interview which involved her designs for the specific project as well as her graphic ideas (she's not too bad at graphics but it isn't her forte.) The 'organisation' decided, after keeping her waiting a few weeks, that the job was best handled by a company and they had made a mistake interviewing individuals for the position and subsequently told her the position was no longer available. She had submitted her designs via e-mail and also as a hard copy at interview.

Having visited this attraction today, with her, we were shocked to find that they had carried her design throughout their campaign which was plastered on every space possible. They have used the same graphic elements, concept behind the design and also the same colours. They have also used elements of informational graphics which she submitted.

What can she do? As far as we are both aware, the 'organisation' have no in-house designer, a web-guy for facebook/web updates is the nearest person to this who throws together simple designs. We are thinking this must have been done by an external individual or company who may have been passed her designs as to something they liked.

Any help would be great, we definitely don't want to go in all guns blazing with this one. Gently, gently is the way forward but she just needs to know where she stands.

Thanks very much in advance everyone.

As creator she owns the works and her creative rights could only be transferred by contract. Submitting a portfolio by interview is quite obviously not a contract. She can sue for damages and loss of earnings which would be substantial and also issue a cease and desist to stop usage of the images. The company which is using the images without permission is ultimately responsible. Solicitor's letter goes to them, they do one of the following:

1. Make settlement with you and sue the company they were supplied by
2. Ignore you and hope you go away
3. Contest the case

The thing to be aware of is she now already has a considerable financial claim, regardless of whether the images are pulled from the campaign and her claim is with the company using them, not the company who supplied them. As recommended above, time to get a solicitor.
I would suspect that the email conversations (including sending the sample artwork) would constitute some kind of paper trail?
But yes, seek legal advice. Most solicitors will give you free consultation to ascertain if this is something that would be a success. They may go for a 'fee on winning' situation.

This kind of thing makes me angry about the morals of some companies. From what you describe, this seems like a strong case.
That thing about the interview being conducted by mistake sounds like the clincher to me: it's sketchy but they could conceivably contest any claim on the grounds that something produced specifically for them through a competitive process is theirs to retain (this is the case with some formal tenders) but their denial that the process was genuine sounds tantamount to procuring materials by deception.

It isn't cut-and-dried and do talk to a brief but it sounds like a payday to me.
I agree, you should seek legal advice. Unless the company stated anywhere that during the interview process your friend would have to submit designs that would be unpaid, then I think you have a strong case. If they did make it clear, then it may be a lesson learned here. Good luck though! If it were me I would be furious, so I hope your friend gets a good outcome.
It's pure and simple theft, with deception thrown in. Sometimes people need a reminder that what they are doing isn't smart but criminal.
Thanks everyone - I passed on your messages to her yesterday morning and she popped into see a solicitor who has told her to write a letter, she will look over it and then they will wait and see what they come back with.

She has been told to mention being disappointed in them, being compensated and to include comparison photos.

Thanks for your replies.
Excellent, I'm really glad shes begun the process, from what you have said it sounds like she should have a good case.