My Marks & Spencer ordeal

Here it goes...

Most of you may know about my recent ordeal with Marks & Spencer & their strikingly similar design. Unfortunately the matter is still can read the earlier blog posts here & here.

It's deeply upsetting as I followed the correct legal format, my design is well documented (first created in 2008) I'm an active member of the ACID community. I sought legal advice & complained immediately to Marks & Spencer, I kept the whole thing quiet & tried to work with Marks & Spencer to resolve the issue yet they have left me with no choice as the matter is still unresolved....I decided to speak out publicly so they took the matter seriously. I also felt it was my moral duty as a teacher to raise awareness on the re occurring issue, to not be afraid to speak out & protect what's rightfully yours.

"After a series of legal letters, which is very expensive for a micro design company against a major retailer, M & S lawyers responded with a defence that they were “unaware” of the existence of Rachael Taylor’s design. Frustrated and disappointed that M & S would not acknowledge infringement of her rights, Rachael raised the lookalike matter through social media. Without admitting liability M & S responded straight away and said that they had pulled the product immediately".

I've kept everything low key over the past three to four weeks as I've been so distracted, distressed, exhausted & upset by the whole ordeal. I'm not someone who likes to post about negativity or dwell on things. I've tried to keep my regular positive attitude & have really tried to forget about it all (whilst my solicitor has been dealing with the matter). The truth is that behind the scenes it's been a very different story.... On Facebook & Twitter it may seem like everything is OK but no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors & the emotional strain it's had on me... The stress & financial pressures have been overwhelming. I've not been sleeping at all & have really lost my creative drive. Is it fair to treat designer's in this way?

For me the most disappointing thing is that I've always liked Marks & Spencer & regularly shopped there. As a freelance designer I have actually designed for them on a regular basis (via a design studio) on products such as: greeting cards, stationery, gifts, toys & even their packaging. I have even created some of their bestsellers! (I have designed for them since 2008) Some people have said I should be "flattered". But it is really insulting to think that a previous employer has done this. It's really distressing & truly upsetting that it has come to this. I really don't see how it's flattering? I would like to think that's it's any designers worst nightmare...

My designs published on greeting cards (above) for Marks & Spencer!

Marks & Spencer have publicly blamed their supplier but is it OK for Marks & Spencer to take the profit of the sales? To continue to sell the design for over two weeks after I complained? (After I followed the correct legal format) Marks & Spencer have been quoted to have said they removed the tops "immediately" after my complaint... I didn't realise over two weeks was immediately... The top was first spotted on one of the London stores key window displays back on the 9th of June. (We know the tops were selling for at least four weeks from the date of the initial sighting to the day they say they pulled the tops from store).

I have never voiced my own personal opinion in the media or on previous blog posts but why should I be scared to speak out? No one sees the impact it has had on my business and not to mention the steep legal costs. Today I have decided to personally speak out, Marks & Spencer may think that because I'm an independent designer I will be too scared to fight the cause...they may think I'm going to just go away... Should I have just let them continue to sell the tops without my permission? I firmly believe in standing up for yourself & this is something that I not going to suddenly stop doing.

For me the most disappointing thing is that Marks & Spencer still haven't done the right thing, they have been given numerous opportunities to do so...

They have not offered any damages or royalties based on their sales (they have kept all of the profit *based on over at least four weeks of sales) They also refused an offer of mediation. Marks & Spencer have also refused to become signatories of the voluntary ACID Code of Conduct. 

I'm actually astonished that they still haven't tried to resolve this...when myself and ACID really have tried to work with them (*this has been dragged out since June).

Marks & Spencer top (left) my Etched Floral tea towel (right)

My Etched Floral lighting design (above) as part of a USA licensed range.

Above three images - examples of my designs published & sold by Marks & Spencer

So what is next? Please sign this petition to help enforce better rules for designers. I am backing ACID all the way and I hope you join me in this fight as this is something that is harming the design world...we need to fight back and be heard! (*If you want to show your support here too, feel free to publish a blog comment).

I'd like to thank everyone for their ongoing support you will never know how much it means to me... I can't thank you enough! A special thank you goes to The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Drapers, Elle Decoration, ACID, The Design Trust, Own It, Fiona Pattison (my PR consultant) Kelly Hudson (my solicitor) & Kelly Crossley (my assistant). I've even had support from my local MP Stuart Andrew! BBC Watchdog & BBC Radio4! 

Please support the ACID "Commission it, Don't Copy it" Campaign. You can sign up & show your support here.

Here are numerous links & coverage on the case:


We were truly an M&S household even my Husky dog Alfie was used as a model in their 2012 calendars!

The blog (as it always is) has been left open for any voluntary comments. If you also blogged about my recent Marks & Spencer ordeal please share your link & I will add it to the list.

66 thoughts on “My Marks & Spencer ordeal

  1. louise

    Hi Rachael,
    I always read you posts but don’t tend to post much but after reading this I wanted to send my sympathies. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you and it’s such a shame that you’re creativity has taken a hit (although completely understandable too). I really hope M+S come back to you with a just apology and outcome. I really hope it all settles down soon. You are a fantastic source of inspiration for so many of your followers and the new mag is amazing too-well done and keep up the fantastic work.
    Louise x

  2. Faye Brown

    I’m so sorry and disheartened to hear that this still hasn’t been dealt with in a fair and reasonable way. And to hear the effect it has on you as the designer personally, I’m sure many of us would have a similar reaction, losing sleep etc. It’s so sad a company as big as M&S can treat people this way. You’ve already helped so many of your students achieve their dreams – By standing up to this will also have a knock on effect to give others the courage to do the same. I really hope M&S will wake up and resolve this asap.
    Faye Brown

  3. Gabrielle Treanor

    I’m so sorry this issue has not been resolved and Marks & Spencer have behaved in such a disappointing way. I admire your refusal to give up and walk away, it takes courage to stand up for what you believe is right, particularly at great financial and emotional strain to yourself. There are a significant number of people out there who believe in you, your talent and your work so try to take comfort in them when you’re lying awake at night. I hope you reach a positive resolution soon.

  4. Gabriella Buckingham

    Hi Rachael
    This is awful. I am so sad to read about the toll it’s been taking on you; I’d be just the same – I think we all would. M+S behaviour is disgusting; if they’d turned round – apologised and paid you as if they’d commissioned you that would have been best for all parties. It’s also shocking that they are not complying with Acid’s commission it don’t copy it campaign. It’s almost as if they are saying – this is just what we do. They are being very foolish as a business to continue with this stance. I really hope they realise this fast. with love and hope that you get some peace of mind soon – Gabs

  5. Julie Clay Illustration

    Hi Rachael, I cannot understand that M&S will not respond in the right and proper way to what has happened here. The design is so obviously a direct rip off that they cannot pass or aportion blame to any other party.Someone within M&S has to be aware of such things. They ultimately have to be responsible for this infringement of your copyright. These things can take ages to resolve, and I admire you for standing up to this as it will seem daunting. But you know in your heart who is right. Don’t lose sleep over it, your positive nature will overcome these ‘Big Guys’ and you have massive support from people following this. Wishing you all the best Rachael, put it to one side, and continue with your delightful work, it will come good in the end as you are being true to your craft and yourself! X Jules

  6. Amanda Charteris

    Hi Rachael, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this and completely shocked at the M & S tactics. How on earth whoever sanctioned this for them thought they could get away with this is beyond belief. If there is anything we can do for you at Gwag to support you, please let me know. Amanda x

  7. Amanda Winfield

    Hi Rachael
    Just unbelievable they are treating you like this. In a much smaller way, I have been copied and it feels terrible. Of course you’re not sleeping, of course it’s having an effect on your work. What M&S don’t realise is that to earn a living in the arts is hard, long hours, dedication and giving ones all every day. Take this ability away and one doesn’t earn a living.
    I wish you a calm and tidy end to this horrible mess and sincerely hope M&S see sense.
    With best wishes
    Amanda Winfield
    And member of ACID

  8. Patricia van den Akker

    Dear Rachael
    So sorry to hear the impact this is having on you and your business. It takes great strenghts to fight cases against big businesses.
    Thank you for sharing your entire story which will help others.
    Do let me know if The Design Trust can help in any way.
    Patricia van den Akker, Director
    Take good care of yourself, as this might be a marathon and not a sprint.

  9. Sinead Mansell

    Hi Rachael
    I am completely in support of what you are doing. It’s so important to stand up for yourself as an independent designer and protect your work. Some one has to make a stand against these major retailers who have no morales when it comes to making a profit. From what you have said you’ve tried to be reasonable & sort the issue out amicably but they are just hoping you will give up the fight. Stay strong and believe that what you are doing is making a stand for what you believe in and you have so much support around you. Keep positive & try not to let it get you down. 🙂

  10. Dan Parnell

    I am disappointed M&S have not taken responsibility for this, been more reasonable with and simply do the right thing.

    The focus on other people/companies down the supply chain, although not uncommon (Nike with child labour in the ’90’s for example), it is ultimately NOT right.

    Interestingly, the M&S corporate social responsibility report for 2012 is named “How we do business”.

    THEIR Plan A is simply “Doing the right thing”. Are the messing??

    M&S take a read of your document and sort this out!!

    There is clear evidence of complete lack of moral, social, economic (…and legal!) responsibility. Fingers crossed this sorts out Rachel – we are all behind you!

    For those who want to read a glossy load of rubbish plastered with the absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley, check out the M&S CSR Report 2012…laughable…

  11. sayoneedesign

    It is sickening how a big company like M&S think they can ignore this without an attempt to resolve the issue with compensation and apologies!
    It is amazing how you have managed to keep up with your enormous work load with all the stress!

  12. Deborah Velasquez

    Rachael Just reading this!
    How terrible that this continues to be unresolved. What a disappointment that M & S is playing ostrich and not taking any responsibility. So easy for them to be teflon and push it off on it’s supplier. One would think they would come forward and do the right, HONEST and HONORABLE thing. Not removing the merchandise when they said they would, just awful. The way they have handled it is to make the victim feel awful, so maybe they go away, that is what A BULLY does! Pure arrogance and greed! Shame on them. You can count me in your corner as well as many the blogging community who have your back. Petition has been signed. Here for you should you need me to rally up my blogosphere army! Stay strong we will stand with you. Hugs!

  13. Phyllida Coroneo

    I am very saddened to hear about your continuing distress. I had truly believed that M&S would do the honorable thing. What of the supplier? they seem to have slipped into the shadows, surely they should be brought to task. I admire your strength and determination. You are not only fighting this battle for yourself but for the whole design community.

  14. annelinesophiadesigns

    I am absolutely disgusted with M&S’ behaviour, especially since they ‘pride’ themselves on being an ethical company. How can we trust that they are fair to their ‘fairtrade suppliers’ when they are so unfair to a British designer. This makes me doubt everything they stand for! I have signed the petition and will encourage others to do the same. You’re not alone Rachael we are all behind you. Why don’t you have something on your site for people to donate towards your legal costs? You winning this battle will benefit all designers so, it is another way to support you and to show M&S the support you have. We are here for you. x

  15. Gemma Luker

    As an illustrator I am behind you all the way with your fight for this! After reading your blog a few days later I walked past my local m&s and guess which t shirt was STILL on display IN THEIR WINDOW!! I took a picture which i would have posted here if i could, but considering they ‘had been removed immediately’ i cant understand why its still in store, let alone in a window display!

    Petition signed, keep up the fight!!

  16. Anonymous

    Situations like this make me ashamed to work for a big company. I ‘think’ we’re pretty ethical when it comes to design, but then again, before this happened I would have thought M&S were, too. Keep up the fight, I will support you (albeit anonymously!) all the way. Boycotting M&S from now on.

  17. Anonymous

    Just shocking! Disgusting that they have failed to pay you for using your designs. Keep fighting and I hope you get the credit you deserve x

  18. Tanya Hammond

    Rachael, i am so sorry to hear this ordeal is still ongoing and the impact it is having on you. M&S have been truly outrageous in their conduc! As a student of your course, i am hugely grateful for your time and you are such an inspiration. You have such a wonderful, happy & strong brand – don’t give up the fight, it’s people like you that make a real difference to the next generation and we all support you and hope you get the credit you are due. I only hope the publicity will bring a positive spin to the situation for you. Good luck!

  19. Julie

    I’ve signed the petition and hope you get this resolved soon so that you can get your health and creativity back. You are right to be upset about the theft of your creative property. This fight will make you stronger.

  20. Anonymous

    sorry its taking such a toll, its a complete rip off – I entered a ‘competition’ once – didnt win but found a strikingly similar design for sale the following season – needless to say I wont enter any more.

  21. heart.hearth.home.

    I had hoped by now that M&S would have settled this matter with you. It is grossly unfair that you are having to suffer the burden both financially and creatively. I have signed the petition. I cannot believe they could treat you in this way. I do hope your legal team can resolve this quickly. The strain on you must be enormous. Sending a hug. Irene

  22. paintdropskeepfalling

    You must feel really betrayed for this to happen with a company that you are so closely associated with – I’m really sorry for you and all the strain it’s putting you under. I admire the stand you’re making and am glad you’ve found such great support to do that. You’ve been a great teacher, authentic in all you do and say, and this response from you is right. I hope youa re vindicated. Best wishes, Claire

  23. Louise Rawlings

    I really am shocked at the response you’ve had from M&S. It’s such a blatant copyright infringement..made all the worse as you’ve worked with them previously. I really hope you get the outcome you deserve and I, as a fellow designer, will be watching this story with interest.
    Good luck, and all best wishes,

  24. Beth - Luscious Little Somethings

    I’ve been a regular M&S customer over the years. Their treatment of you is appalling and I can’t shop or align myself with a company that has such a lack of ethics, ignores your design right and won’t talk to license your design. I’ll be boycotting M&S until they do and I’ll be sharing that fact over my social network. I know much of my following comes from a similar ethical view point.

    I am surprised by M&S. Really bad marketing on their part & and they should know better. They should really be doing some damage control by now.

  25. Claire Henley

    I’m echoing all the comments above. Have signed the petition and will not be crossing the threshold until this is resolved satisfactorily (and maybe not even then).

    Try your hardest to bury yourself in some sort of creative work, even if it’s a bit of gentle doodling – it might help.

  26. Anonymous

    I wish you all the luck in the world, you seem to have a lot of support. But so typical of the Big Boys to stamp on the little ones. I hope you get some sort of recompense from M&S to compensate for your distress, costs, and I suppose theft. And your imagination and design skills should be rewarded also. Thinking of you Papasmurf46

  27. Eddie Johnson

    I completely agree with your cause – but shouldn’t you also be chasing down the supplier who copied the design in the first place? Those guys made profit from it too, and are far less likely to be able to plead ignorance.

    1. Sam Cook

      I also just responded below to @Annarack @Eddie fair point, but have M&S named the supplier? They have blamed them but we still have no name? Surely M&S would have named the supplier by now. It’s a shame they they haven’t now done the honourable thing and agreed to sign the ACID code of conduct?

  28. C M Rawlins

    I am so disappointed (outraged) at M&S. This is flat out stealing from someone they think can’t fight back because they are so big. I’m sorry this has happened to you. On our trip to London, I certainly won’t be going to Marks and Spencer!

  29. Annarack

    I am so sorry to hear of M&S being complete arses. I don’t know why they don’t just give you the royalties at least cause it is your design. Its not like they can’t afford…NOT!! I’m gonna sign this petition now.

    We all have freedom of speech and you have the right to your opinions, don’t ever let anyone put you down for that.

    1. Annarack

      hello again. Do you know the name of the supplier, cause really they should have been mentioned in this blog post as they were the ones who actually copied you?

    2. Sam Cook

      I’ve noticed in all of the public tweets from Marks & Spencer they have blamed the supplier. But why haven’t they named the supplier? It would be their best interest too? If they are wanting to do the right thing by designers why haven’t they agreed to sign the ACID code of conduct, when invited? I agree in the fact that two people are to blame here not just M&S however I find the poor response from Marks & Spencer a little odd.

  30. Kelly Daniel

    Yay, here’s to the Davids (rather than Goliaths)! Just think: however exhausting, you have fought the good fight. It may be a half victory (so far) but better than being trappled underfoot and you’ve massively raised the profile of this issue(I came to your post via Mitch Benn’s post on twitter), so clearly social media is the way to make Marks and Spencer act in a FULLY professional way.

  31. Emine Ortega

    It is really sad to hear that this ordeal hasn’t been resolved and that it has taken an emotional and financial toll on you. I commend you for standing your ground and defending your rights as a designer. You are an inspiration to all of us because by standing up for yourself, you are standing up for us too. Thank you, and I hope that this injustice ends soon! All the best.

  32. LindaKay

    As an artist starting to work towards a broader audience, this is indeed unsettling. I understand the hard work that goes into creating designs and pieces of artwork. To be treated as you have is unconscionable, illegal and unethical. M&S are dodging their responsibilities in this matter, most likely to gain some extra time ~ to rake in more profits? intimidate you and hope you drop the case? I wish you the best of luck and a fair and just settlement. I got your back!!!

  33. sarahcards

    I am part of a small company that commissions designs by independent artists, and values their work. It is imperative that we show solidarity with individual artists and support them in receiving recognition for their designs. It is wholly unacceptable for large retailers to copy work and imagine that their kudos or power will enable them to get away with it, and it is a sad fact that it does still happen. I’ve signed the petition and shared amongst my friends. So sorry to hear of your fight and my best wishes for a speedy and just resolution!

  34. Anna

    I am speechless that a company so blatantly in the wrong will not step up to the plate and compensate you for your the damage done. It is unacceptable. Thank you for taking a stand as a role model and advocate for the industry. I will sign and share the petition. Best – Anna

  35. Love Lucy Illustration

    Shame on M&S, this must have costed you so much time and energy, really feel for you. Try to stay strong and get your creative spark back soon. All the very best with this battle. Signed the petition, and shall follow your progress. Good luck x

  36. Col | Hello Olive

    This sort of behaviour by huge retailers is happening way too often these days! Well done for standing up for yourself. I really hope M&S do the right thing and compensate you. Good luck. x

  37. Emmie and Emma

    so sorry to hear about your challenging situation, maybe this is to help raise awareness of this issue of the moral right of all artists and writers, bless M&S in their integrity

  38. Kirsten Miller

    Please keep going, these big organisations can’t keep doing as they please without responsibility – you are very supported.

  39. Mary Andrews

    Designs from my degree show appeared in a catalogue the following summer, I was gutted and as an individual could not afford to do anything about it. I am so glad you challenged them, they haven’t even tried to change the design in any way. Good on you.

  40. Leska Hamaty

    How very disapointing for us all, to think that even after establishing a relationship you’d have to deal with this. Truly upsetting. Nonetheless your doing the right thing..we must all take a stand.

  41. Jayne

    How awful for you, no wonder you are so upset by the whole affair. I am horrified to hear you had a working relationship with them, I have bought some of your best selling cards. jayne x take care of yourself

  42. Anonymous

    I’m appalled at M&S’s behaviour. M&S should sue the company who they have bought the copied designs from. They must have had a contract which this other company has breached as the design blatantly isn’t theirs to sell to M&S. No big company works on a handshake “in good faith” way these days surely? Perhaps there should be a name and shame website so people can see who not to trust? If the big companies stand up to these fraudulent people it would be in everyone’s interest.
    Good Luck – your designs are wonderful!

  43. Katie Wildig

    So just to clarify, M&S had no idea that the design was yours, and then took it out of stores two to four weeks after you first contacted them? Do you have any idea how much effort it takes a behemoth of a company like M&S to respond that quickly?

    It sounds like they dealt with you extremely fairly imho.

  44. Pattern Addict

    If you succeed in your fight it will be a mammoth victory for not only you but all designers who end up embroiled in this kind of nightmare and should keep retail buyers on their toes going forwards. Very good luck!

  45. Claire Spencer

    Katie, they still profited from Rachael’s design? How is this right? Plus it has happened before to other designers, so when does it stop?

    Is it right for this to happen? High street stores have a responsibility where they get their designs from. And Rachael’s designs have been sold at M&S in the past. They have handled this situation badly expecting the designer to go away!

    I also find it strange and outrageous that they have refused to sign the ACID Code of Conduct.

    Things need to change and ACID are behind the designer, and are determined to take this all the way. “Commission it! Don’t copy it”.

  46. natalie alexander

    Sorry to hear how it has affected you Rachael but happy to hear you are not giving up. People cant just take someones design and not be held accountable, good luck

  47. Donna Heart

    Hello rachael – I’m one of your ABSPD students. I read your blog posts and was mortified for you to hear of this whole ordeal you’ve been put through. I can only begin to imagine how distressing this has been, and as you mentioned the financial stain as well. But I am so proud that you’ve stood up for yourself – as if it ever happens to any of us, we will now have your story and strength to lean on too. It has a ripple effect – and now you’ve been able to translate a terrible thing into something that may also help others one day… You are a unique and talented designer, and I have no doubt that one day you will look back on this as a distant distraction. I know your ideas will flow again, you must trust that. i think your spirit knows you can only deal with so much at one time so has graciously let your ideas sit silently for a while whilst you sort this out – but they’ll come back in full force. I only hope you get what is owed to you – not to mention a formal apology from M&S – I’d love to see that posted on your site!!! Thoughts and prayers are with you from all the way down in Oz. Today, you are my inspiration !!

  48. Sam Cook

    Just reading all of the comments, it will be interesting to see if M&S agree to now sign the ACID code of conduct? I can’t believe they refused it, it’s actually shocking!

    It will be interesting to see if they ever give you the supplier surely M&S should name and shame them if they are putting the blame on the supplier.

    Good luck Rachel I hope you & M&S can work together to sort it out & things change for the better. Keep everybody updated!

  49. MaJo·BV

    Just popping back to read all of the other comments. I’m so sorry Rachael that you still have to deal with this awful matter on top of all the other things you have to deal with. Fortunately, all the other things are fun and pretty, right? I really hope for this “nightmare” to finish soon. Good luck and keep us updated 😉

  50. Gennifer

    Just popped over to this from Kelly Rae’s Possibilitarian interview with you (which was lovely!). So sorry to hear what M&S did to you. I was in a similar situation a few months ago and it really took a toll on me and my creativity. I hope things have gotten better for you. Don’t let the man get you down!

  51. stacey yacula studio

    I am so sorry to hear that you are going through such an ordeal. I simply can only imagine how this has affected you. You are right this is any creative person’s worst nightmare.
    I applaud you and thank you for taking these brave steps not only to set things right for yourself but also for being a voice for all of us who are creative.
    I wish you all the best and that this gets resolved soon.

  52. Maxine Horn

    Hi Rachael
    Well you already know our take on this disappointing story and your other supporters can read it here

    And noting our last line in the article regards the irony that M & S would prosecute a shoplifter for ‘stealing’ the product they applied the design to, alegedly stolen from you …….

    If they had not yet pulled the product I would have suggested we rounded up 100 plus designers to march into their flagship store, and steal the product, all filmed for extensive news coverage.

    We can’t do that now of course but if any other designers find themselves in the same position ……

    I’m all for a protest that really makes the point that such lack of ethics will not be silenced by designers.

    Well done for speaking up and standing up for all designers everywhere

  53. Pingback: Make it in Design (MID) Feature an IP Podcast with ACID CEO Dids Macdonald, OBE - ACID - Anti Copying In Design

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