The Shoe Snob Blog

December 29, 2015

Written by , Posted in News

Inspiration or Copying? You Tell Me?

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**It would appear that some people are taking my words more literal than they are meant to be. This post is about respect and the idea of not blatantly taking someone else’s idea. There is no product infringement here and I would never think about ever getting a lawyer for things like this as that is just silly. Nothing is new under the sun but doing something different from the next brand as opposed to doing exactly what they did is what this is about. Its about originality and morality.**

There is a fine line between copying someone’s idea and taking inspiration from it. Being the person who thinks that people are copying (an idea) from, I guess that I would be somewhat biased on the subject, so I am writing here to ask what all of you think? But first let me tell you about how I took inspiration and made a product (and idea) from it.

When I used to shine shoes as a job I remember getting a good amount of Berluti shoes brought to my table. And every now and then they would come with these plastic shoe trees that came in black with gold insignia indicating the brand (not the first time I had seen trees like this but these ones did give me the inspiration). This was right at the time that the airlines were starting to jack up the prices for luggage and lower the weight restrictions in order to make money off of us travelers. As NO ONE IN MY DIRECT SECTOR OF THE INDUSTRY (i.e. my direct competitors) had done so previously, I decided to create an idea out of it and make a product coined “The Travel Shoe Tree.” Now I won’t lie, I looked at the bottom of those trees, found the manufacturer and ordered the product to sell under my own label. But of course as not to directly copy Berluti’s product (who doesn’t even sell these but rather just gives them with their shoes), I changed the color and with that color change and phrase made it distinctly related to my brand, as red and black is highly associated with The Shoe Snob and I was campaigning the ide of travel shoe trees.

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Now while I can’t claim to be the first person to have ever used the term “travel shoe tree,” I can say that I did promote that idea heavily on TSS and it has since been a phrase used by many other brands in my direct sector of the industry. And while that is great and it doesnt bother me whatsoever, what is not so great is the fact that not only have 2 other companies used that phrase, but also made the exact same tree as the one that I did keeping the exact same color (bright red) and insignia and one brand even under-cutting me in price. Now I understand that this is the name of the game and I am happy to play it but I would more respect the individual/brand that took inspiration from that product release and at least change colors to represent their brand and NOT use the exact same colors that I use, especially as there is a plethora of colors in the world and these trees are offered in many of them.

Now I won’t name the companies nor show their product photos but just thought I would ask all of you how you would feel if someone directly took your idea without altering the idea that makes it what it is (i.e. the bright red and coined name of it)?

Nevertheless, I guess I can at least be happy and proud that my ideas are used by others. But just remember where you first found the red, plastic “Travel Shoe Tree”!!

http://www.theshoesnob.com/collections/shoe-care/Shoe-Tree

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  • T.Lansangan

    As they say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I’m sure there are also others out there who are copying your shoe designs as well. I say take it as a compliment!

  • Geo

    I understand why You do not intend to name the “thieves” but it is unfair as they did not care to vulgarily copy You…

  • Christian

    “Travel shoe trees” was used on askandyaboutclothes.com 6-7 years ago. I found the same expression in German and Italian, describing wooden hollowed trees.
    There is a company that claims this shade of red for same type of trees (Scarosso red).

    What do you mean by “no one in your sector”?

    Nothing is new under the shoemaking sun and I think is a bit too much to say that you coined an expression, or that red and black are associated with your brand.
    It’s unfair to think that you can copy a finite product but others can’t copy a color.

    Anyway, is still very pleasant and inspiring to read your blog (I’m not a hater).
    All the best!

    • TheShoeSnob

      i think you misread my post.

      I stated that I was never the first person to USE that phrase but rather the first company in my direct sector (i.e. brands that directly compete in this level of shoemaking and/or direct competitor in accessory companies) to coin the phrase “Travel Shoe Tree” and associate it with a product that was for sale. Sure, someone on AAAC used those words before but that is just one person, not a company selling a product.

      Also, I did not copy a finite product. Copying a product would have been if Berluti were the manufactures of the product and took it and then went to China and made a copy of it. But they are simply one of many customers of the suppliers and I am sure that they were not the first. I did what I feel others should do: Took inspiration from the product, used it but did so changing the colors so I DID NOT COPY Berluti’s direct idea. And yes it is completely fair for me to say that Red and Black are colors associated with my brand as my logo has a pair of black and red shoes in it and the letters are written in red.

      And yes, I am familiar with the Scarosso one, but I know whose came first and for me it’s a bit too obvious what they were doing. I did study business at university so am familiar with business tactics.

  • r

    Isn’t TSS a registered trademark? I’m no lawyer, but could be worth a look.

    • TheShoeSnob

      yes The Shoe Snob as a brand/logo is but I don’t think that would apply

  • Marcus

    As an earlier commentator said, Immitation is the best form of flattery.

    But direct copies? You need a legal opinion

    Where you stand out from many is that you are happy to praise good competition.
    I´m sure that if you saw a different shoe tree product that you like, you would post about it.
    But direct copies is another thing. Lawyer please!

    • TheShoeSnob

      Maybe I misworded it. I am not worried about product infringment as I cant claim that. This was more about respect and taking peoples idea that one could have easily not done by simply changing color. I dont sue people, thats just silly

      • Juan Manuel

        This. I totally agree. Just a matter of respect.

        It’s a sad world slmetimes… but, indeed, you were the first one, Justin!

  • Nicholas

    Leaving aside the legal/moral arguments I think it worth saying these Shoe Trees ( I was bought 4 for Christmas ) are superb , Many thanks

  • Aditya Lakshmipathy

    Hi, please
    take this with a pinch of salt…. I live in India and I have bought your
    travel shoe trees and use them regularly. They are excellent. Thank you. Yes, I think this is blatantly copying and a
    form of flattery. But if someone lives in the other end of the world and if
    everyone had to pay a heavy price in terms of shipping charges, I would expect this
    copying to continue. As far as
    “doing something different from the next brand as opposed to doing exactly
    what they did” goes, I think improving this design would be tough
    and thus the blatant copying. The only way I see this not happening with your
    shoe designs is if you had better reach to the rest of the world. I don’t mind paying a premium that your shoes deserve. But unfortunately, since one can’t get your shoes in India. People would probably copy your design and get them made locally.

    Here are some more for you to look at…

    http://guide.alibaba.com/shop/travel-black-plastic-shoe-trees-all-sizes-available-made-in-ital_9284555.html

    http://www.scarosso.com/en/reise-schuhspanner.html

    https://www.hangerproject.com/hanger-project-plastic-shoetree.html

    http://www.styleforum.net/t/228153/the-official-shoe-care-thread-tutorials-photos-etc/4155

    • TheShoeSnob

      thanks for commenting Aditya and for your support

      • T.

        Justin? Do you know this “Aditya Lakshimpathy” person? S/he could be trolling you buddy. If you read the name slowly it sounds like: I need lack sympathy”

        At the same time they’ve have put in links of the similar products to rival yours.

  • fran kim

    It’s the capitalistic society today but I guess we should as least have ‘conscience’.
    As a business owner in the same industry as you are, I do totally understand what you said.
    I guess I may as well use the term ‘travel shoe trees’ from now on.
    Thanks for the good posting.

    • TheShoeSnob

      thanks for the words and support Fran!

  • Ramon

    Go ahead Mr.Justin, while being people who value the genuine and authenticity, you’ll being always one step ahead, because those who merely imitate or directly copy what others do, they are being always behind.
    In prime lines, some people play and take advantage of life and some other people just copied, they are worse than mere spectators, at least the spectators don’t lie.

    • TheShoeSnob

      thanks Ramon!

  • Octavian Ng

    I’ll just say that shoe trees are a common product, and almost all shoe tree looks a like. Claiming to own the color red on shoe tree would be akin to the first maker of shoe tree claiming the natural color of wood.

    You literally just took an existing product(photo attached below), changed the color and label and are angry that people are copying you? It doesn’t matter that Berluti didn’t make them available for direct purchase, it was still their idea. And no, changing the color of an item and putting your name on it does not make it an “inspiration” instead of copying. So it is okay to copy people’s idea just because the product was a gift and not being sold?

    This brings to mind the phrase, “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

    And the LSC TSS below shows you there are much more original ways to make a TSS then just changing the color of an existing one.

    • TheShoeSnob

      What is LSC TSS? TSS is The Shoe Snob not ‘travel shoe tree,’ that would be TST!!!

      I love comments like yours, they are exactly why I write these posts. You forgot the name of the blog and the word in it, SNOB.

      Yes, I throw stones, but I am far from a glass house. If I was really bothered, I would confront the people directly. I know that this not copying as I did not create the product. I went to business school, and understand the way of business quite well. But I can guarantee that the people in question saw my product and then said, ‘hey, let’s do exactly what he is doing and try to take some sales from that.’ That’s business and I get it. I am not mad nor bothered. I feel sorry for people that don’t have their own ideas. It will annoy me when I first discover it and I will lose respect for those that did it, but I would never lose sleep over it. I would not be cut out for business ownership if I did.

      When I write posts like this it is to engage the readers. My readership for a post like this is 4 times the amount of a regular post. And I know that it will be before writing it. When I pose a question and use provocative writing it creates emotions in others to respond, good or bad. I love my supporters but I get even happier when I receive negative comments like yours because negative commentators will be even more engaged and you see people’s true feelings. Everything I do is calculated. So thanks again for proving my point.