Tangled webs

Here’s the 5-cent tour of Herself’s latest installment, and then the stuff that’s independently verifiable, in convenient tabular format…

The Starmore side The somewhat independently verifiable side
Alice Starmore had a concept for a range of yarns with particular colours and colour stories. She put a lot of work into developing the stories, choosing the colours, and worked with Donald Macleod to realize the concept in her chosen medium (wool, of course). No independent source for verification, but with the exception of the Macleod bit, I believe the rest of it wholeheartedly.
She chose to work with Donald Macleod, the individual, and not Donald Macleod Ltd, the company. No independent source for verification, but this makes me wonder who owned the wool and the machinery, and what kind of legal mess that might have entailed.
The yarn range was a success. When measured on the scale of hand knitting enterprises, quite believable.
Donald Macleod, the individual, left the company a couple of months after the yarn range was launched. The individual apparently continued to supply the yarn. At the moment, not verifiable. But note that the hang tags on the yarn sold by Virtual Yarns indicate that the yarn is made in Great Britain–you’d figure that a patriotic Scotswoman would be certain to tell you if her yarn was made in Scotland, so the yarn is being supplied, but from where?
Donald Macleod, the company, went into liquidation in 2003, apparently owing half a million pounds to the local council, Donald Macleod, the individual, and the Harris Tweed Association. The liquidation was noted earlier, and perhaps the information about the outstanding debts is publicly available.
The next year, a new company now established at the same mill (that’d be HTTL) apparently bought up some yarn from a defunct company, Hunters of Brora, and contracted with knitters to knit up some Di Gilpin designs. The yarn was identified by Starmore herself as “18 cut standard Shetland yarn.” The yarn, says Starmore, was later sold as “Harris Shetland.” If you’re a yarn bargain hunter, you might recall that Webs has bought up Brora yarn as well. As for the HTTL-purchased Brora yarn, at least some of it was later sold through Elann, everybody’s favourite clearinghouse for discontinued yarn. It was described by Elann as “Harris Tweed Textiles Shetland 4 ply” (and here’s a link to the page as it was in 2004) and the label shown clearly states across the top, in smaller print, “Harris Tweed Textiles” and in much larger print, “Shetland 4 Ply.” The back of the label reads “HTT Ltd” with its address, the company’s URL, and typical yarn label data (shade numbers, weight, yardage, gauge etc.). Despite the juxtaposition of the HTTL company name and the name “Shetland 4 Ply,” the label does not say “Harris Shetland” as Starmore asserts. Unless some of this yarn found its way to the market with a different label that I haven’t seen.
(Thanks, Terri, for pointing out the Elann stock to me!)
Starmore discovered that the HTTL website was advertising a forthcoming Hebridean knitting yarn featuring designs by Di Gilpin. Starmore says, “It was thus immediately clear that our Hebridean Yarn Concept was being copied.” Noted earlier, from the version of the HTTL website from May 2004. But the yarn line did not materialize, so was the concept copied? And isn’t this simply called competition?
Starmore also discovered (following the timeline that she reports in her story, this was also in 2004) that HTTL had “lifted an entire section of our Virtual Yarns website and were using it word for word, including errors that we had made when writing it. They had copied the whole section from our site, pasted it into their own, and substituted Harris Tweed Textiles for Virtual Yarns. The theft was plain, and the reproduction of the errors was further damning evidence for it.” I needed a little help to find it, but I did at last find the section of the website that must be the subject of Starmore’s complaint. It’s a page from the 2002 Donald Macleod Ltd website containing order support information. It can be compared to the current order support page on the Virtual Yarns site, which is virtually unchanged since 2001 (some currency figures have changed to reflect business realities). Yes, the content is extremely similar–stuff about whether purchasers would be charged import duty, and so on. The Donald Macleod Ltd version of the page was taken down by December 2003, when the entire site was taken down for retooling. According to the Way Back Machine archives, this order support page was not linked to the version of the website that advertised the forthcoming “Hebridean Inspirations” yarn.

Oh, for a clean little Stitch ‘n Bitch-type dispute.

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