How about knitting as a business, and law as a hobby?

Another scoop from LJ because I’m not on the KnitPixie mailing list… (by the way, if you read all the comments there, I feel compelled to point out that we have empirical evidence that teaching a lawyer to knit would not calm things down. I’ve turned an office Easter egg hunt into a contact sport. I’ve drawn blood during an office air hockey tournament. And I’ve been knitting longer than I’ve been a lawyer.)

Knitpixie has changed its name to “kpixie” because a large craft corporation felt that “knitpixie” sounded too similar to their own name. That name, apparently, is KnitPicks, and the allegation makes some sense when you think about it, although there’s not much else to say about the perceived merits of the case. However, I think that KnitPicks (which has a registered trademark for Knit Picks, two words, by the way, but the fact that it’s two separate words would likely have little impact on those merits) has a better case in court than… oh, say, Alice Starmore against anyone selling a yarn pack for one of her old designs containing Jamiesons-branded wool, with no unauthorized copy of the pattern included (AS being successful so far only thanks to eBay policies), or a registered trademark holder for Harris Tweed and a graphic design against someone selling a yarn produced on Harris, called Harris and not tweed, and not marked with anything like the graphic design. Just my personal opinion.

The KnitPicks incident isn’t a case of big business versus small business, though. More like medium-small size business (90 employees) versus cottage business (2 owner-operators). Not like the American discount retailer incursion into Canada. For example, when Wal*Mart explored the possibility of expansion into major Canadian cities, it checked for other businesses with similar names. Not because the big company would think to change its name to work around the local business landscape, of course — international companies like to have consistent branding — but because the big company would like to eradicate any potentially confusing names from the local market. In Ottawa, they found such a name: Wool-Mart. A shop that had existed long before anyone in the neighbourhood had heard of Wal*Mart. So Wal*Mart threatened legal action for passing off. Maybe they even commenced the action, but I doubt it. After a bit of outrage was expressed in the local paper, Wool-Mart decided to live to fight another day, and changed its name (I don’t know if the name change was done at their own expense, or if the deal was sweetened). They’re still around, and I like shopping there when I’m in town. Just wish they weren’t in an industrial park with mattress shops, and were neighbours with something more suitable for the non-knitting family members.

While I’m always quite cynical and keen to identify any sign that the knitting bubble is going to burst and that there will be small business owners all over the continent stuck with a warehouse full of flammable eyelash yarn just waiting to spontaneously combust and drive up insurance rates, I don’t think this is one of those signs. Sure, it’s the obvious thing to choose a domain name, trademark, or trade name that begins with “knit” when you’re in that business, but there’s still a world of second syllables out there. A real harbinger of the imminent doom of the bubble is the sale of a plethora of Martha ponchos or other forms of Lion Brand world domination. I say, if you want to give money to charity, there are ways to do it without encouraging the creation of more acrylic tents.

(Oh, and I even thought “maybe I should sign up for an LJ account” and discovered that the one userid that I’d use was registered by someone else, and that account is just lying there dormant. It isn’t even being used. It’s not the same having a different userid and just changing your “name” to what you wanted. Feh.)

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6 Responses to How about knitting as a business, and law as a hobby?

  1. Jane says:

    I love that image of all that eyelash yarn going up in flames! That’s just what I needed. Thanks. :)

  2. Kristi says:

    It was pointed out elsewhere that knitters were in fact confusing the two business. When “Secret Pal 6″ started Knitpixie created a special Secret Pal gift certificate that would make it easy for people to buy a gift cert for their pal without revealing their identity. This news was passed around and people started to claim *Knitpicks.com* was selling the SP gift cert …

    I personally think this situation is what tipped Knit Picks off to the fact knitters were confusing them with someone else. After a few phone calls and emails asking about a product they didn’t offer (and I imagine comments like “But my friend Besty says she bought one from you!”) they had to know something weird was going on.

  3. Helen says:

    I really have to disagree with the comment that KnitPicks is going after the LYSs. In my opinion, KnitPicks is making knitting accessible to those who can’t afford the LYS, like me. Sure, I support my LYS when I need a skein or two of yarn, needles, etc., but sweater-quantities of yarn are too expensive for me at the LYS. Before KnitPicks, I would cruise the Webs garage sale section, Elann, and thrift stores (for froggable sweaters). I think KnitPicks has introduced healthy competition into the yarn industry, which was previously geared toward a strange combination of Red Heart acrylic knitters on one end and wealthy fiber snobs on the other. KnitPicks has been the salvation of many a financially challenged knitter.

  4. julie says:

    hmmm – 90 employees make KnitPicks a “medium” sized company. Maybe in Wal-Mart and regular retailing world, but I think they are one of the largest yarn companies in the world – especially if you consider their corporate affilations. And consider they are in the yarn retail market, where their “peers” are much much smaller. The largest retail yarn store I know employs less than 20, all of whom except 2 are part-time. And I don’t include Michaels or JoAnne’s because I don’t think that’s who their competition is – KnitPicks is going after the LYS’s. And hurting them.

    julie
    also a knitter longer than a lawyer (barely)

  5. April Prey says:

    “While I’m always quite cynical and keen to identify any sign that the knitting bubble is going to burst and that there will be small business owners all over the continent stuck with a warehouse full of flammable eyelash yarn just waiting to spontaneously combust and drive up insurance rates…”

    Can I say that is a terribly funny image? Thanks for today’s laugh.

    PS: I’m a paralegal, so not suprized that a lawyer would think like that…

  6. Shannon says:

    I feel for Missa, at KnitPixie, though. What a pain. Oops, sorry…KPIXIE. But I like the suggestion in the thread that they change their name to “purlpixie.” Heh.