Thursday, October 24, 2002

Web site filches Cape man’s furniture designs

Published in the Current

Douglas Green of Cape Elizabeth is learning the value of the Internet to his business, reaching customers nationwide. Unfortunately, he is also learning how others can hurt his business by using technology.

Green operates Green Design Furniture, with a store in Portland. Last Friday, one of his customers alerted him that a furniture-sales web site targeted at high-end computer users was purportedly selling Green’s own furniture.

When Green looked at the web site,, he was very surprised.

“The site had pulled images and copy from our catalog,” Green said.

Further, the site was advertising retail prices that were “basically double”
Green’s own prices, and then offering a discount from those inflated prices.

Green had never heard of the site, and nobody had contacted him to ask permission. Green and his employees are the only people authorized to sell his furniture.

Green called the site’s owner, Jack Campbell, of Hendersonville, Tenn., to complain. Green was furious at what he saw as infringement of his intellectual property rights. He gave Campbell an hour to remove the photos and text from the site, and told Campbell his lawyer would also call to make the point.

“It was beyond what I could comprehend,” Green said.

Campbell defended his action, saying he was setting up a trial run of a web-based business marketing “expensive, nice designer wares” to users of Macintosh computers. He is a marketing consultant and technology writer known in the Macintosh user community.

His demographic studies indicate, he said, that Macintosh owners are a good market for high-end goods.

He approached a number of vendors for possible materials. One person, he said, claimed that Green’s furniture was really his own. This person, Campbell said, sent over photos and descriptions, as well as pricing information to be used on Campbell’s web site. These were the materials Green said were his own.

The site opened Oct. 17. The following day, he heard from Green, and the material was off his web site less than 30 hours after it was posted.

“I tried to apologize to Douglas (Green),” Campbell said, but Green was upset and wouldn’t let him say much, Campbell said.

After the call, Campbell checked into all of his other prospective vendors, and he said they checked out as credible sellers of their products.

Green said he takes infringements seriously. “This is what I’ve spent the last 10 years on,” he said. “We have to be really rigorous in defending my ideas. What I own are my designs.”