The story of Engage Brandcraft vs Ngage
Published on 06.08.10
I’ve been asked to divulge the details behind the mysterious case that led to my involvement in the Myows project in the first place. The whole matter was fairly convoluted and I’m not entirely sure that the other party is to blame although a lot of other people seem pretty convinced. But here’s the story – make of it what you will. Just bear in mind that this is my opinion only!
A friend of mine and I started a small brand strategy and communications firm in Cape Town at the beginning of 2007. The name is Engage Brandcraft (engage.co.za). The logo was created from a popular font called Danube which we paid for and used for the logotype and the logo device. I was responsible for the logo’s origination myself. I’m not absolutely proud of the result now – mainly because I relied on a commercially available font for the whole thing. But I’m not technically a designer and it’s not bad. So there. Needless to say, the thing has meaning to me because I put it together and it stands for a lot (both in its implicit meaning and in the history and hardships that lie behind it). Okay okay, I know, Cry me a river.
But those are all my own personal happy feelings and pleasant thoughts, (probably a fair amount of ego in the mix too) shared only by my business partner and the most ardent of our team members. It’s not a public thing – at least it wasn’t until the wonderful folk at ‘ngage’ (ngage.co.za) got hold of us. (In fact their lawyers got hold of us, I like to believe they didn’t have the cojunas to call us themselves… makes you wonder). Anyway their lawyers charged us with copyright infringement and ‘passing off’ (pretending we were them: a mining PR consultancy based in another city) and hinted that we may be liable for criminal charges… we could land up in prison for our trespasses! At the time we had never heard of Ngage (complete with ‘funky’ spelling a la the 90s) and so we bitterly contested their claim.
Now it’s fairly evident that our two logos look alike. They’re both in the commonly available font (Danube) and they both are based around versions of the English word “Engage” (although only one of them is correctly spelled). It is also apparent that both we and they (or their appointed designer) liked the “a” of the Danube font more than any other letter in the Danube alphabet. We created a meaningful device with ours and they used theirs to make a lovely rain pattern. Unlike the other guys though, I’m not going to cry fowl until I’ve talked everything over and got hold of the facts, I’m just saying that I don’t like what I see here. But here’s the thing that drove me nuts: it cost us about $2000 just to defend our own logo by responding with an equally unnecessary and vicious lawyers’ letter. And if we’d had to see this thing through to trial? We would be looking at upwards of $50,000. The only other alternative would be to close our doors or at least change our name and logo even though they were rightfully ours.
It was this very stressful, upsetting and time-wasting episode that taught me just how useless copyright law is to the man on the street if he’s acting alone. In fact, the way things work in reality can even end up costing little guys like us a fortune – just in a bid to ward off attack and prove that we are in the right.
Myows was started to put an end to all this kind of nonsense. The argument between us ultimately boiled down to who had their identity first. Again, I like to think it was us because as soon as we put a date to it (in our lawyer’s response), they ran away. But how cool would it have been to send them a C&D letter straight off the cuff. “Thanks for bringing your theft to our attention, we have proof that we created the logo on xx/xx/xxxx, so bring it on big boy…”
Myows is here so you don’t have to go through the same kind of ridiculous, expensive and draining ordeal that we did. It is because of this experience that we at Engage Brandcraft (with an E) protect our work religiously and rigorously. Please don’t wait till some ponsey twit steals your work and then tries to sue you before you do the same.