The Jerk Magnet Strikes Again…


The Intellectual Property Gods are at it again. Egging Marketman on, in yet another “jerk magnet” moment (a phrase coined by reader “Toping”) of nearly incomprehensible coincidences. I arrived in Cebu a few hours ago and got to the office. After an hour or two, a call to the Zubuchon phone line is answered, and a lady from the Marriott Hotel in Cebu asks if we would be interested in participating in an organic weekend market in December. She is told to fax details. The fax arrives. And the event is sponsored by the “Ayala Business Club of Cebu” together with the Marriott Hotel. Pretty established names, I thought. And the market is called “simply organic weekend market.” BUT wait a moment, look at their logo! Doesn’t it look familiar? Are they kidding me? Shall I have lunch first before I give them a call and ask who designed their market logo? Yes, lunch first so I am less likely to bite someone’s head off…


During lunch, I review all the materials. Yes the size of the basket and proportion look exactly the same. The shadows are the same, the trailing line of the basket base is the same, the handles are at the same angle and so is the shadow/back handle. The veggies have been altered. I think I have a reason to call them. So I call the lady from the Marriott back, and ask her who designed their logo. I explain that I believe the design was copied from another source, and she gives me the name of their Graphics/Design/Signage supplier, Red Tag, and a contact person. I call the contact person, to whom I explain the situation, she says I must talk to the designer, who asks me the same questions. I ask where they found the basket in the logo, and they eventually admit they copied it off the internet. I tell them the original belongs to marketmanila, and I am the person behind marketmanila and I consider their actions to be a violation of my intellectual property rights. They stutter. Did they think to try using a bayong as the basis for their design? Did they even know what a french market basket (made in Morocco) looked like in real life? Finally, a manager or senior person is put on the line, he asks for time to investigate and talk with his staff. And then an hour later, the Marriott lady calls to apologize on behalf of the designer and the hotel. She says the designer “took inspiration” from marketmanila’s logo. I tell her I thought it was “stolen,” not inspired. And she didn’t refute the point. I asked her if the designer “stole” the logo of Honda or Mercedes and just added an eggplant would it simply be taking inspiration? I thought to myself, what if I took the Marriott’s own “M” logo and simply added on “arketman” would their phalanx of corporate lawyers come after me?

At any rate, I know it isn’t the Marriott’s fault, but it is by admission, the graphic designer’s fault. So I gamely accept the apology, after they reassure me that the logo will be immediately changed, and that all PR materials including flyers, letter, signage, tarpaulins, etc. are changed to remove the basket. End of story. But really, what are the chances that a graphic designer based in Cebu, surfing the net, would decide to “copy” a logo of (rather than say, then give it to a client hotel where I happen to have stayed many, many times in the past (but not recently), and that client chooses to send solicitation letters directly to my office using the blasted logo? Six degrees of separation?!? I hope the designer at least learned an important lesson today. DO NOT STEAL SOMEONE ELSE’S LOGO.

P.S., I just spoke with the owner of Red Tag, and as I have said before, I think both the Marriott and Red Tag management completely understand the issue and have made appropriate apologies that have been fully accepted. I explained that I thought this was an excellent “teaching opportunity” for graphic artists and other staff members of the company and he agreed. The graphic artist has also been spoken to by management, and overall, I would like to look on the bright side of this incident. As usual, my motto has to be, if something goes wrong, SPEAK UP, and hopefully something good will come out of it. Just as the internet has made it easier for people to access so much more information, so is the internet the tool to disseminate information as well. Many thanks to all involved. CASE CLOSED.

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65 Responses

  1. its really very disappointing how some people think they can always get away with things like this :(

  2. Look he added an eggplant to MM’s basket. pretty original huh? :))

    I did a quick google image search for basket/ market baskets / basket logo/ organic food basket, MM’s logo doesn’t even come up on the 2nd page. My guess is the graphic artist reads MarketManila .com regularly. He just used this logo because he was probably too lazy to design a new one. Good luck on your career mr. graphic artist.

  3. i dont think the graphic artist is a regular to marketmanila otherwise he would know how MM would feel about this. this should serve as a lesson to those who are thinking of stealing something from the net and making it his own.

  4. Horrible! But I hope it gets people to become more aware about intellectual property rights and respecting others’ ownership. Glad that the Marriott decided to do something about it.

  5. so bad! sayang ang binayad ng marriott sa agency.. and nasaan ang “talent” ng graphic designer? ang tamad nya! i’m sure he/she also copied the eggplant somewhere!

  6. geeee. thats very bad. and the manager of the graphic designer should be accountable too. he should at least, validate if the output of his staff is original. COPYCAT

  7. sad to say, copying off of someone else’s idea, and slightly distorting it, is largely practiced in the philippine advertising and graphic design industry. i’ve seen this happen with my own eyes. sometimes “award-winning” writers, artists or even creative directors copy off international ads on the one show and other award books. it is disheartening to see Filipino “creativity” stoop so low. no one knows the meaning of integrity anymore? tama na ang gaya-gaya puto maya.

  8. Some people think work means copying, jumping on ideas, registering it when they hear it or worse, go through the backdoor nasty words :(

  9. an ad agency who has designers that can’t make there own design???!!!! there is a saying that “if you will copy a design it should be better than the original”

  10. All I can say, utmost stupidity. Don’t they know that with the age of the internet, these things can be verified quickly? The irony of it all, Marriott had to fax you of all people the logo of your own blog. I am sure Marriott is very embarrassed and understandably so. They should fire that graphic designer immediately.

  11. Hahahaha I just think this is soooo funny!Just think what are the chances?I know this is a serious infringement of intellectual property but you have to look at the funny side of it!

  12. What are the odds that something like this would fall on MM’s plate that he caught the IPR violator? Sus, gidimalas jud ang graphic designer kay nasakpan nga nangawat ug logo.

  13. Uhm…so did you receive copies of the new promotional material? Just to verify that they indeed changed the logo…just curious. :-)

  14. Omg! I couldnt stop laughing myself out…imagining the initial reaction of Marriott lady when you phoned her. Such an embarrassing situation! lol

  15. Ed B, I think it will take a couple of days before they come out with the new logo. But since this is on my “second home” turf, Cebu, I don’t think they would do anything dumb, twice. moni, peanut, Asi et al, I have to say, I didn’t go ballistic on this one. It was almost embarrassing catching this all SO RED-HANDED. There wasn’t much wiggle room at all.

  16. I would love to have been a fly in the room, if you had lunch with the GM and PR Manager of Marriott and showed them the offending materials.

    On the bright side, your zubuchon is definitely a magnet to attract people to attend events. The event organizers called to invite you, even if your zubuchon is not 100% organic. This is proof that your zubuchon has arrived!!!! Congratulations!!

    Another thing just cross my mind. I wonder to what degree of organic that weekend market will be. I hope the organic content will be a majority of participants rather than a minority. It would be a let-down if one thinks to find a lot of organic stuff, only to find out its less than 10% or all items offered. Then another issue of truth in advertising will be at hand.

  17. dont know what’s with people these days. it seems stealing is becoming ordinary and conventional. especially with regard to intellectual property. be it in creative works, literature, journals. walang respeto sa trabaho and creativity ng iba. and most of the time it only takes a phone call away, if not an email, or meeting with the owner to request for permission, then make acknowledgements. most of my clients often tell my designer to copy, my designer declines because she believes it is plainly wrong, and an insult to her creativity and talent.

  18. kit, I have to agree, this seems far more common than it seemed to be years ago… Artisan, I don’t think they even really know what the definition of organic really is. And I didn’t bother to write it into the post, but obviously we didn’t agree to participate in the market. We will be at BTC that weekend, after all. :)

  19. If I were the ad agency manager, that designer would have been terminated immediately. They were lucky they weren’t simply sued instead.

    And, if the “designer” in question IS a reader here: get out of the design business. Thieves have no business being in any part of the IP-producing business.

  20. MM, better register your logo at at the IPO office.
    These days copying and altering is widespread in design.

  21. Shameful !!! They should offer you a free hotel suite and meals, a free table during the organic fair and change those materials immediately. Can you imagine what Red Tag charged the hotel for a “copied” logo? Let me know if you need help in the IPO office.

  22. While I laud Marriott for admitting responsibility and gave you an assurance that they will change the logo, the responsible thing for them to do is to send an apology to all the people that they mailed their invitation to and give you the credit for the design. The damage has been done – changing the logo without explaining why still leaves a bad taste to my mouth. I know that you are not after the limellight but this is the right thing to do!

  23. This is really shameful! Unfortunately it happens everyday in the cyberworld, I don’t know how many times my photos and designs have been stolen by others too…and the worst I often discover it accidentally. And when I react and tell them about it, they apologise but often claim that since their published on the net they can have it freely :-(

  24. I am sorry to hear someone stole your Iogo. But isn’t this very common in the Philippines? Not only in intellectual properties (pacquiao-cotto fight copied and sold within 24 hours after the event) but on a daily basis in the government. Every minute somebody is stealing something. There is a total breakdown on decency and morality. Let’s vote for people that will bring back respect, decency and morality to our country.

  25. I would not be too quick with laying all the blame on the ad agency. A lot of clients come up with the ‘inspiration’ and simply ask their ad agency to implement it. A good agency would reject such work if it infringes on copyright or trademark laws. But, if it’s tight on money, or it’s dealing with a big account, it may be ‘inspired’ to take a risk.

    Personally, Marketman, I would have participated in the market anyway since Marriott apologised and agreed to no longer use your logo. I would have even offered to help them develop a logo of their own. Then you’d end up being owed some serious favors from a couple of serious ‘players’ in the Marriott and Ayala.

  26. A decent graphic artist should be equipped to create his or her own original design. I can always look at other people’s work for inspiration and design guidance, but to copy, paste and add a talong to someone else’s logo is really just not right.
    It also boils down to education and information about the Internet and the World Wide Web, copyright and fair use policies. The web is an amazing source of information but is at the same time an amazing supplier of crap like spam, schemes and hoaxes. We need to know what is fact from fiction, we need to know what we can use and we can’t.

  27. Amazing story. There’s a lot of chutzpah in the world.

    In 1999 friends of mine were disappointed to learn I wasn’t relocating from Pampanga to Antipolo after they saw a big banner on an office building with the AOL logo promoting the “Running Man” and AOL (my employer). When we took a ride so that I could check out the sign, it was clear that Antipolo Online (AOL) had stolen the AOL logo. I notified our Legal department, but I noticed the sign still standing on subsequent visits.

    I’d imagine the ROI just wasn’t worthwhile and that there probably weren’t many that were even that familiar with the logo in Antipolo 1999. :)

  28. My goodness, Marketman, the basket looks exactly the same as if it were traced from your logo and they just altered the contents. How embarrassing for the ad company and the hotel too! They’re lucky, you have a kind heart. If that happened here in the US, they would have been sued, big time!

  29. MM, that’s the problem we usually encounter as “design artists.” sometimes our heads are so full of ideas from our researches that we mistook some of them as our own.

    usually, if we see an “inspiring item” we work on it and play around the idea, not totally copying it as is. that is why we ask our clients some suggestions on what they expect us to do before working on a project. sometimes our clients “dictate” us what to do even to the minutest details.

    that is why i would like to “defend” my own kind, sir.

    i mean, the artist here should not take all the blame. if the artist’s immediate boss in Red Tag approved the logo, he/she shares the blame. if the organizers (and sometimes the sponsors) approved it as well or any other artwork regarding an event and have them printed for distribution, they share the guilt. approval sometimes means they (the boss, the organizers, the sponsors) actually dictated the final outcome, hence the logo.

    the artist is not alone, so to speak. in a corporate world like Red Tag (i assume Red Tag is not a one-man team), the artist’s work may have been revised many times to come up with the final study.

    no, i am not asking people to steal other people’s work.

    a good source of explanation for “copying and stealing designs” can be read from this link: lesson from this article can be summarised with this- COPY THE INSPIRATION, NOT THE OUTCOME.

    on the positive side- your website and your person must be THAT popular they have to use your logo for the promotion of their activity.

  30. Edik, I completely agree with you that artists look elsewhere for inspiration, it has been that way for millenia. The finest Impressionists looked at other impressionists and even earlier artists. The best sculptors looked at earlier works. But usually, they interpreted them and made them their own in their new version. My pet peeve with this particular case is that the basket itself, which is the primary part of the logo, is NOT changed at ALL. Not the size, not the relative proportion, the shape, the shadows, the handles, etc. The vegetables are hastily replaced and altered, and THAT smacks not only of intellectual and design laziness, but a lack of understanding of the concept of inspiration. And worse, it is a related use, another market, rather than a completely different business or topic all-together.

    I do agree that managers take part of the blame, but they also should have reasonably expected that their subordinates would not simply copy a logo and slightly alter it. The same applies to my posts on plagiarism. Just changing a few words in a key paragraph on a particular topic does not make it your own. I realize it is a grey line at some point, but in this particular case, it is black and white for me.

    Had the artist explained clearly that the inspiration was baskets, that he reviewed different types of baskets, that he submitted different variations of said baskets and the managers and clients specifically picked this one, even after they had been advised of the source of inspiration, then the managers would be smack on liable as well. But in the case of a university student who writes a thesis, and it passes muster and is approved by the thesis board, but months later another author realizes that several paragraphs have been stolen from his earlier work, WHO do you think then would be responsible/liable/culpable? Not the professors on the thesis board, but the student who stole the material. The thesis board does not have the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the student’s work is completely his own, they ASSUME that the student has been honest and followed known rules for plagiarism, etc. If they suspect a problem, they can check it out, but they are not responsible to be “100% original writer police”, so to speak.

    In this case, when confronted, the designer admitted to taking the basket straight off the web, and by that, I presume my website. If he had changed it substantially, stuck it under the arm of a walking market-goer, changed the basket weave, etc., there would have been no problem. After all, there are hundreds of basket logos out there, and they all managed not to be very close copies of each other. When asked what kind of basket the designer had come up with, he had no idea. So I think this was really more a case of intellectual laziness and a blatant disregard for other people’s property or material. Finally, both the Marriott manager and the Manager of Red Tag I spoke to apologized for the situation and DID NOT just blame the designer, they too owned up to the obvious problem in their midst. The designer did not bother to send me an apology, call me up or leave a comment on this post. So even there s/he falls flat. While talking to them, it didn’t even strike me as though they understood what they had done was wrong. It was wrong.

    You may want to check out this link as well, to see similar logos for different companies. And finally, had the designer simply bothered to email me, and ask permission to use a similar logo for the market, and shown me a sample, I may have even AGREED. Rarely have I turned down a reader’s request to borrow a photo, use part of a recipe, etc. when they have emailed me. Only requests for purely commercial purposes are typically denied permission.

  31. I’m pretty sure The Marriott paid quite a sum for this particular project of theirs. How can you be a graphic artist when you can’t even create a decent logo for one of your clients? Redtag should make sure their teams cover things like this when they have projects. If I were to “take inspiration” from one of Redtag’s previous projects and plaster it on my online account, I bet they’d come after me eventually….

  32. I believe that Mariott has shared responsibility in this matter. It should require all its suppliers to adhere to ethical standards. Contracts for suppliers of creative work such as designs must be made to agree in writing that the work they submit are original, not copied in anyway etc etc

  33. Do you think the artist might be on a hurry or the graphic company is under pressure? well we don’t know. Instead of thinking a creative logo for their client he/she (the artist) just altered the logo and added some stuff (Talong!! etc) and clearly if you are a regular of you will noticed this right away. .To bad for the graphics designer laziness of thinking new idea was on top of his work. tsk

    (errrr….was that the….uhhh…..fishpan?

    it does not need insipiration to make anyone add an eggplant to the sketch and call it his own. just plain sloth.

    but seriously, MM, might it have been intentional…you know, in a very pinoy way, somebody probably thought since they were planning to invite you and you see your logo on the flyer, then maybe you’d be flattered?

  35. the problem with people nowadays, they got used to copying and pasting items that they see on the internet, and they choose to copy the most popular ones [popularity that was gained by a different entity, in this case Market Manila, with pure effort and hardship] to attract more attention.

    ‘ako ang nagtanim, iba ang kumain’

  36. lazy, lazy graphic designer. marriott should feel shortchanged for red tag services because they got a ripped off logo in the end and negative blog buzz to boot.

  37. Grabe. I’m so offended on your behalf, MM. I can’t believe the nerve of that graphic artist. There’s no excuse for plain and simple theft, whether it’s lack of time to come up with a design, laziness, etc. I hope that designer learns his/her lesson big time. I’m not saying naman that they lose their job sana; rather, I’m just hoping this becomes a big learning tool for them and their future project(s). Pasalamat lang sila all they got from you was a slap on the wrist and that you did not sic your lawyer on them. Si Ginger na lang. :)

  38. Unsa na sila uy….MM, friendly advice to be safe na lg next time dapat ipa- register mo sa office of Intellectual Property Rights.
    And kanang Zubuchon, sus maghilak jud ko kung ma copy na sg uban M…:( i’m really goin to scream at them, and i’l call them “copypigs”! (dili na copy cat) kay c Zubuchon man ang involve ba..
    Though im Negrense I love the Cebuano dialect (stayed there for a year), i do hope i got it all right.

  39. plagiarism has to be nipped in the bud. that is have educators imbed it in the minds of students especially in the creative arts. Discussions about intellectual rights have only been actually done among artists (as far as I know) but…cheating (as outright plagiarism is) is a personal attribute. Sorry to have read your case, MM.
    Actually, I think this is a stroke of coincidental luck for this graphic designer that he/she was found out and that it was MarketMan who was the “victim”. Why? A lot of the so-called ills of society (cheating, laziness, etc.) have stood ground just because of the nature of sins-of-omission.

  40. Oh, my! There is an uncanniness to it. I’m disappointed at RED TAG. They are supposed to be really good with their tarps & signages. Just in case you will run into the same problem MM, you might want to register a copyright for the logo because they placed emphasis on statutory damages and attorney fees are only for registered works. Hence, if you want to dispute authors that copied your work, you might as well register for a copyright. :)

  41. What right do they have to call themselves graphic designers when they cannot even come up with their own original ideas. Pure laziness..and who knows, maybe thoe folks can’t even draw. The nerve!

  42. are people too uninspired already to make their own design?? and the fact that you are a designer and you get paid to make your own designs it is really a shame that you copy stuff from the internet and let a company pay for it and claiming that it is your design. . .

  43. I live in Alabang and dont much venture out. Have constantly read your posts. Was wondering if you could help. Do you know where i can get a dayap fruit ? Thank you!

  44. Kate, you can sometimes get it in the weekend markets, possibly even the one in Alabang. Sometimes, they have them at large SM supermarkets. But overall, it’s tough to find fresh dayap…

  45. this is great. i feel strongly against infringement also as i am an artist myself. I will feel violated.
    great move and lesson

  46. Oh my…this made me laugh, especially after reading that it got sorted out eventually.

    But, really, the event sponsor hired the graphics…so they have to create one, not copy one. And btw, I know one of the “owners” of Red Tag and I couldn’t believe they have not made it clear to their staff concerns like this.

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