This spring, we held our first Boise Weekly T-shirt design contest and selected a winner. After printing 150 T-shirts with the new design two weeks ago, we ran an advertisement to sell them. No sooner did the issue hit the streets than we received several e-mails pointing out a similar design on www.threadless.com, a cool, funky, online T-shirt store.
We contacted our winner, Reed Morse and inquired about the originality of his work, if he had perhaps been "inspired" by another similar design. He said that his submission to the contest was his original idea, his own work, and not copied from another source. He said he posted the design to his own Web site (www.moresedesigns.com) just after he finished the design in March. We looked all over his site for a copy of his design (seen right) but could not locate it. We did, however find a link to Threadless.com.
We contacted Ross Zietz, the creator of the design "Fred and the Giant Eel" and he replied via e-mail, "I am a professional designer/illustrator and have had many T-shirts printed. I have never been this blatantly ripped off. ... Fred and the Giant Eel was my own original design and concept; originally it was a sketch named after my late grandfather. I vectored the sketch in November 2004, and it was put up for voting on Threadless on December 11, 2004. It proceeded to win that contest and was put up for sale on March 8, 2005."
Threadless.com informed us that Mr. Morse has purchased during the last year over twenty of their T-shirts. While we are not assigning guilt, it is our opinion that circumstantial evidence is leaning towards Mr. Zietz as the original creator.
Rather than deal with lawyers, we have received permission from and licensed Mr. Zietz's design for 150 T-shirts for the same prize money we paid our winner. The T-shirts are still cool and are available in our offices, and at Prestige and at Record Exchange soon. Ross Zietz's super-cool T-shirt designs can be seen at www.threadless.com and www.rosszietz.com.