Hundreds of pin designs by independent designers are being ripped off and sold on one of the world’s biggest online retailers, aliexpress.com. Aliexpress is a subsidiary of Chinese retailer Alibaba. It was set up to grow its reach outside of Asia and challenge Amazon and Ebay. So, if your designs are being ripped off here, it is a good idea to act NOW.
Getting my design taken off sale was relatively easy. It may not work for you but following these steps will certainly head you in the right direction.
First, go to AliExpress and create an account… boring, I know… but it takes two minutes and you can soon start to fight pirates! Yeah!
Now search for ‘enamel pins’ or click here…
Now trawl through the hundreds of ripped-off designs until you locate yours. You can of course refine your search to ‘Frida Kahlo pin’, etc. I did some research and tracked down a lot of the makers on Instagram but I don’t have time to locate everyone so if you recognize a fellow designer being ripped off – please do alert them!
Now, you’ll notice that Aliexpress isn’t a shop in itself but rather a platform for individual sellers like Ebay, Etsy, etc…
There are two next steps on your quest. I couldn’t make one work – you may have more luck, let’s start with that one…
When you have located your design, bring up its product page. Halfway down the page, on the right hand side, you will see ‘Report Item‘. Click on it.
This is where it quickly gets annoying. But hang in there! And if this doesn’t work for you, I have another solution coming up soon. AliExpress will want you to sign in AGAIN on a different log-in page.
Once you have signed in, you will see the Reports Centre (as below) You need to click on IPR owner’s complaint (IPR=Intellectual Property Rights). As an aside: I know the subject of Intellectual Property is a grey area when it comes to ‘fan art’ (which I notice a lot of the pins are). If your pin has taken inspiration from other work but you have changed it and made it your own, then it is your Intellectual Property. If Disney or Dreamworks want to come after you at a later date for using their imagery then that’s a different thing but for what we are doing here today, as long as you haven’t done a ‘straight lift’ of someone else’s design, you should proceed with confidence as the IPR holder.
Click on ‘Submit a Report‘… and this is where I ran into infuriating trouble… and if it doesn’t work for you, hang on as I have another solution coming up soon.
It will want you to sign in AGAIN! It says you can use your existing Aliexpress account but I couldn’t make it happen…
Everytime I tried to log in it just told me my details are incorrect (they’re not)
As this didn’t work, I then attempted to register a new account. It turned out to be an exercise in futility. They have a weird verification thing where you have to slide a button across.
It never accepted me – even though I could slide the button across (it turns green as you do so), it just reset. I tried this about 5 times before admitting defeat (filling in my details every time – Grrrr!) Note: This may have been down to my browser, I attempted on Safari and Chrome so it should have worked on one of them. You may have more success! If so, go forth and report! and let us know how you get on.
So… The second step… which proved successful for me.
On the product page exactly opposite ‘Report Item‘, you will find the name and location of the shop. Underneath this is a ‘Contact Seller‘ button. Click it (you will need to be signed in).
You will see a box to ‘Send a Message to Supplier’. Notice there is a browse button underneath. This will be useful.
Now, I’m sure you all have a few choice words for the pin pirates! As I do! But I felt it best to be brief and direct. There’s no point in detailing the laws of intellectual property to them – they know they are ripping you off – you just need to tell them you have caught them out.
I created an invoice charging them for the use of my design. Note I charge them for two things. They actually used my own photo on the listing (!) so I charged them for that too. (If anybody uses a photo you have taken without your permission – even if it’s of the Eiffel Tower – you can invoice them for it). So if the vendor on Aliexpress has used your photo be sure to include it too!
I also charged them for the use of my design. The price is not a set industry standard! You can charge your own amount. Who knows? If you charge a smaller amount, you may even get paid (you also may not 🙂
Here’s my invoice – don’t forget to give them your email for your Paypal account.
Now, you will need to attach this to your message. This is where the Browse button comes in handy… please note that it only accepts JPGs, PNGs, GIFs & BMPs – not PDFs or Word/Page/Excel files. So once you have completed your invoice you will need to screenshot it and attach the screenshot file to the message. Easy!
Now with the invoice attached, you can send a very simple message along the lines of:
You have been using my designs without permission. I have attached an invoice for your immediate attention. Thank You.
It would be very easy to have an angry rant at them here but they simply don’t care how long your design took you… how hard it is to make a living as a designer… how much they’ve upset you… they just don’t care… So save your energy, take a deep breath and send off something short and sweet.
I did all of the above and 24 hours later…
Me and Vincent fought the pirates and WON! Now, I know there is the small detail of there being 200 counterfeit pins still out there somewhere probably just waiting to be sold on Ebay but we’ll fight that when it happens. The main thing is they’ve been taken off Aliexpress.
It would have been easy to let this go… it was an annoying process (which I honestly nearly gave up on)… and I thought ‘is he really going to sell that many?’… ‘is it really going to affect my sales that much?’… BUT then I thought NO! There’s a principle here! It’s happening to loads of other designers like me – it’s hard enough trying to eke a living and it’s simply not acceptable that other people can just lift our designs and make money from them. NO WAY!
A big high-five to all of you out there running your own little design empires. We need to protect them and each other! And congratulations and huge respect for pursuing your creative life – coz it ain’t easy!
As mentioned above, if you notice any of your design friends being ripped off please do alert them. I’ve got in touch with a few but there are loads more being ripped off by various venders on Aliexpress.
Keep in touch on social media! I am @exchildgenius on everything.
Peace out x