Protecting Intellectual Property – Did Target Steal AnaJet Customer’s T-Shirt Design?

Melissa Lay owner of Sandilake Clothing and one of our customers launched her own t-shirt business back in April, only to discover that one of the largest retailers in the country was selling a nearly identical tank with her original graphic.  The retailer: Target.  The Shirt: A casual tank featuring an American flag with the phrase “#MERICA”.

“The meaning and importance of #shopsmall has never really hit my heart until today when it hit my home and my livelihood. #MERICA is one of our original 5 designs. We opened April 1st, 2014 and this tank launched us to levels we didn’t know we’re possible.” Lay explains.

“ This photo is me in @target wearing MY #sandilakeclothing original design and holding up the tank they made using the same one. They are identical. And I’m not alone with my story. Small businesses are being copied everywhere with no leg to stand on. I contacted Target Corporate and they gave me an address to mail a letter to! That’s it!!? Please share this story and others you hear of. We work incredibly hard to provide for our families, and dress you and your littles in a rad way that large companies can’t. Know what you are buying and where it came from. I am going to think a lot harder about every purchase I make…“
Lay sells her shirts on Etsy and has recently started selling her items on her own ecommerce shop While Target has this top available for $12.99 Lay sells these hand printed pieces at $25. Ultimately, Lay’s goal is to receive credit for her designs because there is so much hard work placed into producing the shirts one by one. In response, Target has released the following statement: “Target has a deep appreciation for great design and it has always been our policy to respect the intellectual property rights of others. We are aware of this issue and have reached out to the designer.”

Lay’s story has been covered on numerous popular national media outlets. Here’s to coverage from the Today Show:

We hope things work out for Sandilake Clothing but also want to take this opportunity to remind all small business owners the significance of protecting your intellectual property. Here’s a step by step guide on How to License a T-Shirt design.

Dye-sublimation printing – Wasatch Printer and SoftRIP Setup

Printer and SoftRIP Setup
Dye-sublimation printing, like other printing, requires that the printer being used is in optimal condition to achieve the best results. In our testing, we have found the following steps should be taken to optimize the quality of the final print.

Perform any required media feed calibrations, unidirectional/bidirectional head alignments, and other printer specific adjustments.
Configure any printer specific settings necessary for the transfer paper that is being used.

The Mirror control in the Setup – Print Unit window in SoftRIP allows all jobs processed through a specific print unit to be automatically mirrored before printing. This eliminates the need to manually mirror each image that is opened in SoftRIP for dye-sublimation printing.

Be sure to store printed transfer images in a dry, dark and dust free area if you are not immediately pressing them onto a substrate. Extended exposure to fluorescent lights may cause a color change when the images are pressed. Also dust or oils from too much handling and other contaminants can affect the transfer process.

This may include setting up a media type, heater settings, head height, and other printer/media specific settings. These settings can be found in Wasatch SoftRIP by selecting Setup under the Print drop down menu; select Edit by Imaging Configuration; then select the Info button.

Perform a nozzle check/test print before sending print jobs to the printer. If there are nozzles that are not firing properly, perform any required maintenance/cleaning to correct this.

Transfer of Image onto Polyester Coated Aluminum Plates In our testing we have found that the following steps should be taken to optimize the quality of dye-sublimation to polyester coated aluminum plates.

Dye-sublimation to polyester coated aluminum plates requires additional items for the heat press compared to dye-sublimation to fabric. In our testing we use the following layering of items inside the heat press from bottom to top:

  • Nomex pad
  • Two sheets of craft paper
  • Polyester coated aluminum plate
  • Transfer paper
  • One sheet of craft paper
  • Fabric (appropriate for heat press use)

This layering can reduce any artifacts caused by steam from the sublimation ink while transferring the image. The craft paper and fabric between the transfer paper and heat platen will absorb some ink and water during the transfer
process. This ink can transfer back to the substrate if sufficient ink has been absorbed. We recommend replacing the craft paper and/or fabric as needed to avoid transferring back from the paper/fabric back to the substrate.

The transparent protective film covering the coated aluminum plate must be removed before pressing. Removing the protective film from the substrate sheet needs to be done with care, as the edge of the substrate can be damaged or

Unlike dye-sublimation to fabric, coated aluminum plates do not always need to be pre-pressed to remove moisture from the surface of the substrate. In our testing, we have seen a subtle but noticeable shift in the color of the substrate
when the substrate was pre-pressed. Larger substrate sheets (larger than 16×20 inches) are more likely to need to be pre-pressed (to remove any moisture from manufacturing or storage) to produce the best results.

After the protective film is removed from the coated aluminum plate, remove any small particulate matter from the surface by using a lint-free cloth. Foreign material may be present beneath the protective film, which can result in the
ink not transferring to the substrate, which can produce ‘holes’ in the image. Also, the removal of the protective film can produce a static charge which may attract foreign material to the surface of the substrate.

When printing the image to the transfer paper, adding a ‘bleed’ (printing the image fractionally larger than the substrate) allows you to more accurately position the transfer paper on the substrate and significantly reduce the
chances of a white/un-transferred border occurring.

We do not recommend attempting to use an adhesive textile/thermal tack transfer paper with coated aluminum plates, as the texture of the transfer paper will be visible on the substrate. This will produce a cloudy or mottled effect
on the substrate.

To avoid ghosting/double-images, we recommend ensuring that the transfer paper is larger than the substrate that is being transferred to. This will allow the transfer paper to be secured to the substrate with heat-resistant tape. The transfer paper can either be folded around the edges of the substrate and taped to the rear of the substrate or secured at the edges of the substrate to the transfer paper. We recommend securing the transfer paper to two or three sides of the substrate.

Please note that as the coated aluminum plate is removed from the heat press, the plate is hot enough to cause potentially serious burns. We recommend the use of insulated/thermal gloves while handling the heated substrate.