Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Feb 5 2013 21:41:10

Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

By: Kenneth Corbin

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When one seller began circulating word that a wide segment of up-cyclers on Etsy were violating her patent for a process of making kids' clothing out of adult garments, merchants who suddenly found themselves accused of intellectual property infringement reacted with considerable anger and confusion.

The patent holder contacted Etsy, which began removing listings around the middle of January.

The affected sellers complained to the patent holder, and Etsy's discussion forums lit up. Sellers wanted to know how a process that had been around for decades if not centuries could be covered under a patent. What were their legal options?

The patent holder claimed that her intellectual property described a distinctive technique of up-cycling that yielded unique efficiencies, and that it had been the subject of blatant and widespread copying, with tutorials readily accessible through a simple Google search. She initially asked for a small licensing fee, but eventually, apparently yielding to the pressure from the Etsy community, relented, and withdrew her claims of infringement, clearing the way for sellers to re-post their listings.

But it didn't end there. Some sellers remain worried that as long as the patent exists, they could once again find themselves the target of infringement allegations.

Their principal objection is that the patent in question is written in such a way that it could be broadly interpreted, and some have even suggested it amounts to a monopoly on the process of up-cycling. Small wonder, then, that a group of sellers has formed to explore their legal options to challenge the patent, including, potentially, the formation of a nonprofit group to raise funds to enlist an attorney.

We have the full story on the Etsy/up-cycling saga in Wednesday's Newsflash newsletter, including an assessment of what the sellers could look ahead to if they decide to pursue litigation against the patent holder.

We heard from several sellers for our report, but it remains unclear exactly how many received take-down notices from Etsy, and how many listings were affected. So with that, we invite you to share your experience in the comments section below!

About the Author
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.




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Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Tue Feb 5 23:54:16 2013

Well, that's about the most absurd patent story I have ever heard of. How on Earth did this patent ever get accepted, virtually yesterday?

Regardless, I would have thought that this sort of nonsense could only happen on eBay ...

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Feb 6 00:17:14 2013

Of course all the patent holder would need to do is to require anyone wishing to sell items covered by the patent to relinquish their class action rights.

Thank you, SCOTUS.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: alfabarn This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 04:58:01 2013

Welcome to the new pro business America. Patent and copyright trolls are no longer myopic, ethically challenged individuals. But Corporations with stockholders, and Lawyers. Add to that conservative ''activist'' Judges who can strip small entities of their rights. And you do end up with an America where businesses can patent anything that isn't yet patented and copyright common phrases and terms. Like ''let's roll'' and the word Mod when used to describe a clothing style.

HOWEVER!!  those same judges have ruled that small patent holders and copyright holders must take swift legal action or forfeit their rights. If this ''patent'' holder has not acted quickly enough then the sellers may have an out. but they would have to contest it. And most small business do not have the assets to do so.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Feb 6 08:26:30 2013

Pretty soon "Joe Ecommerce" won't be able to sell a thing.

What is to stop anyone from taking out a dictionary and taking claim to every word in it?  Where does it stop?

Greed is killing business in this country.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: WhoKnewIt This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 09:48:28 2013

This one has nothing on "Taggie" and their super broad patent.  They got one for their "taggie blanket" that states that anyone putting a looped piece of ribbon between any 2 pieces of material is infringing on their patent rights.  That's like saying that if you put meat and cheese on 2 pieces of bread you've infringed on a patent.  Taggie is ruthless, they have gone as far as saying on their website that if you "turn in" someone infringing on their patent they will donate their blankets to a non profit agency as a thank you for doing so.  People have been making similar blankets for years and years, Fisher Price even put one out in the 70's!

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 09:53:06 2013

I thought that a patent--to be considered--had to be something NOVEL or a NOVEL way of doing something--not hacking away at a used garment with a pair of scissors and then re-stitching--such as has been done for centuries?  

It's called "Cutting Down Clothing" and dates back to the very dawn of time.

So the person HERE who should be arming themselves for a LAWSUIT would in my eyes be the "Patent Attorney" and possibly even the "Patent Clerk" who FILED and GRANTED the bogus Patent in the FIRST place!  

You can't--or you used not to be  able to--take some common ordinary household way of doing something---say;  getting water out of a pipe via a faucet (since the Romans) BUT if you had a NEW method--say a Hands Free TouchLess Sensor Faucet--now THAT you could get a patent on.

Now my great grandfather was an inventor and invented--and patented!--a NEW and DIFFERENT form of car headlight--and to this DAY he has to be "cited" in the newer patents of other inventors and THEIR seeking of patents for car headlights.  Which I think is pretty cool.  But I also found it interesting to go to an exhibition of the very first "Horseless Carriages" --and some even older HORSE DRAWN equipment--and to SEE what great grandpa had been drawing on in HIS design!  But he---and the "holder" of this absurd patent--HAD to prove that what they were doing was NEW and a DIFFERENT APPROACH to a problem.

Myself I would be as I said above suing the people who got this approved and registered.    

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: nobody This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 10:20:20 2013

I hate to see this. All because one person allowed herself to be wooed by greed and in turn caused multitudes of other hard-working women to feel a range of negative emotions, futher projecting that dark energy out into the world like rings on a pond surface. Affecting so many others surrounding these women such as their families and friends. Then there are the total strangers, who are now affected as well, simply by having to read of people doing such things. Why do some humans behave this way?

Very sad that cristi felt compelled to even think of something so utterly devious, speaking volumes to, not only her undesireable character traits (obvious, after her initial demands of a percetage of everyone's sales using this age-old method. How low can you go?), but her lack of self confidence in her own creativity, while displaying insecurity issues and feelings of inadequacy.

All of these negative emotions cause physical illness.

Poor cristi, I hope she feels better one day, both physically and emotionally.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 10:21:07 2013

Yet another absurd patent.  

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by: WhoKnewIt This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 10:43:18 2013

I should think she would be more careful drawing attention to her Etsy Shop this way.  Clearly she makes items for children.  I do not see a CPSIA Registration number anywhere in her shop descriptions.  If she is ''upcycling'' clothing with buttons that have been ''imported'' she'd better be careful that they don't contain lead.  Anyone manufacturing anything for kids 13 and younger are subject to the new CPSIA rules/regulations relating to children's items.  She needs to be registered, she needs to be properly labeled and she needs to be keeping track of every single material/item of clothing she uses in case of recall.  By utilizing clothing that is of an age that cannot be readily traceable she is opening up her items to very close scrutiny.  No Patent will protect her from the CPSIA rules.  She could very well be selling items that are NOT allowed by CPSIA.  She doesn't know where the buttons came from nor does she probably have certification from the button manufactures that their items meet or exceed CPSIA guidelines for import into the United States.  She's on a slippery slope that's for sure.  And as a grandparent I would not purchase anything that didn't have that CPSIA registration number.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Wed Feb 6 10:52:25 2013

The patent process has become ridiculous in recent years. There are loads of vague patents being issued for things like putting red buttons on a web page and other so-called "business processes" that contain nothing new or innovative. It's nothing more than a money grab and ends up with the burden of proof being on the challengers.

With regards to this patent, I would recommend that anyone interested in finding prior art go look through sewing patterns and women's magazines from the early 1930's and 1940's. The Depression era and the period of WWII had a lot of frugal sentiment, along with wartime rationing, and I expect you'd see a lot of ideas for such things. I recall once seeing a wartime sewing pattern that showed how to convert a man's suit into a woman's suit, so I'll bet you could find articles or patterns relating to children's clothing, too.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 13:39:22 2013

I think if one was to gather up copies fo the old Sewing Basket books and other antique and vintage sewing books, search through them, they could find reference to almost any kind of sewing or alteration. In that case, they could get an attorney to file an estoppel on the premise that the patent holder gained the patent falsely and is estopped from claiming patent rights. The beauty of an estoppel is that the other party cannot argue and has to remain silent while the judge listens to the party claiming injury and examines the evidence. The right research along with the right attorney and the patent would be overturned legally and without being overly costly. The shoe would fall to the other party to file an appeal but if the evidence presented cannot be disputed, then the appeal would be unsuccessful as the higher courts would deny the appeal. Something to think about.    

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by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 14:00:58 2013

It would seem to be in the best interests of Etsy to challenge this obviously ridiculous patent.

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by: sewingnut This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 15:35:26 2013

This patent was granted even though the patent holder related how her "new method" came to her while she was looking at a book published in the early 40's.  The method is clearly shown in the construction diagrams in the books pages.  Her claim is that only she with her years of sewing experience could have seen how this could be used to refashion garments into children's garments and save a manufacturer from losses.  There isn't a shirt manufacturer in the world that would recut men's shirt 2nds using her "Patent" to make useful children's garments which is not even their market.  These books from the 40's are readily available on ebay and Etsy.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Wed Feb 6 17:00:35 2013

Surely, this would have to be one of the most utterly absurd patents ever granted ...

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: mjr55 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 17:39:40 2013

Why are you guys knocking the patent holder? She went about it the right way and applied for a patent...which is NOT cheap to apply for....and she got it.

"I hate to see this. All because one person allowed herself to be wooed by greed and in turn caused multitudes of other hard-working women to feel a range of negative emotions"

Really? What planet do you live on? So basically...someone should be able to come up with a good idea and then a ton of other people should be able to profit off her idea? OK, but then don't cry people when Chinese sellers sell their knock-off crap for 1/2 of what you sell stuff for and put you out of business.

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: mjr55 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 17:43:20 2013

There is a legal system in place. If the other sellers think the patent should not have been given, then they have legal recourse to challenge it. However, in the meantime, the original seller has a patent...which also affords her legal rights to stop others from selling the item...until she is told different from a court of law. She is exercising her rights....doesn't matter if it's Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, or anywhere.

It's sad the patent holder relented. She asked for a "small" licensing fee originally.

If I held that patent, I wouldn't have withdrawn anything.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Wed Feb 6 18:16:15 2013

@mjr55,

Did you bother to read the underlying story? Are you aware that this person has just recently been granted this patent for something that many others have been doing for decades past? The debate is not about the patentee, it’s about an idiot Patent Office that would grant such an ill-founded patent in the first place …

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

by: mjr55 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 6 19:30:53 2013

@PhillipCohen

Read the comments to the story, people are bagging on the patent holder, too...saying she is being greedy because she is enforcing her patent.

I also have to laugh at some of the other comments about how patents have become ridiculous. Do you understand the expertise needed and requirements to obtain a patent...not to mention the qualifications of the people reviewing the patent for the government?

Saying it's ridiculous because you don't happen to agree with a patent being awarded is a little extreme. The smallest nuance from what "other people have been doing for 40 years" could be enough to obtain a patent.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Wed Feb 6 19:50:42 2013

@mjr55,

True, she is being bagged, and rightly so. Read the underlying story! Clearly the patentee has been trying to stand over people who have been doing for years what she has apparently been somehow able to very recently obtain a patent for—that, indeed, is an absurdity, and reflects very poorly on the US Patent Office ...

Perminate Link for Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival   Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Feb 6 21:53:01 2013

I read all the comments on the now closed discussion thread on Etsy. Apparently she was sending cease and desist e-mails to people who weren't sewing the clothes using the method she had patented. So she appears to have been targeting all her competitors no matter how the clothing was constructed.

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