You be the judge

This image is the cover sweater on the latest issue (#80) of Knitter’s magazine.

Look familiar? It might, if you’re Canadian. The colours bear a resemblance to the coloured stripes in the famed “point blankets” sold by The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson’s Bay, Commonly Called Hudson’s Bay Company. (The “points” of the blanket aren’t the coloured stripes, but rather the short lines woven at one edge to denote the blanket size.) The four colour stripe arrangement, consisting of green, red, yellow, and blue, has been sold by the company for more than two hundred years. To solidify the identification of the stripe arrangement with the Hudson’s Bay Company, the design has been registered in Canada as a trademark.

The coat designed by Diane Zangl in Knitter’s (click on the pic to see the gallery page; what’s with the brutally obvious typographical errors, by the way?) lacks the blue stripe, and the other three colours are arranged in a different order. So is it confusingly similar with the HBC trademark? If you saw this coat (or pattern), would you think it was from The Bay? Would you think the designer or publisher was associated with, or had permission from the company to use those stripes?

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14 Responses to You be the judge

  1. martin m says:

    Is it not clear that this coat is trading on its resemblence to the HBC coat/blanket? And…i don’t know this but…Isn’t that what trademark infringment is all about?

    regards
    mmb

  2. Ryan says:

    In fact, if you want to see a coat, albeit small, “made out of a blanket,” see the bear on their Products page here: http://www.hbc.com/hbcheritage/products/

  3. Anne says:

    I own a vintage HBC jacket, and spotted right away how it isn’t tailored at all, saggy, shapeless, but otherwise has the colors more or less close to the common jacket. This is not the first knockoff that I have seen – one of those trendy companies did it a few years ago. HBC does make jackets out of their other blanket patterns as well, this may just be one of the most recognisable. Can they claim infringement if it looks like one of their less common coats?

  4. j. says:

    Trademark infringement doesn’t require an exact copy. If the identical mark isn’t being used by the alleged infringer, there may still be infringement if the use of non-identical mark causes confusion among the affected consumers–hence the questions about what you think when you see the coat.

  5. cinnamontree says:

    I’m not Canadian, so it doesn’t really ring a bell with me, but if it doesn’t have all four colors of the stripe pattern, how can it be trademark infringement?

  6. kathy b says:

    Good point. I immediately recognized it as a spin off of sorts. I am ultra cautious, so I would have contacted someone to make sure I wasn’t infringing. Perhaps the freelancer in me, is just very aware of copy infringments.

  7. katherine says:

    First thing I thought of was it was a very badly done version of the HBC blanket/coat. Doesn’t it even have “Bay” in the name?

    And if I were going to take the time to actually make something like this, I’d prefer it felted, so it was more like the blankets.

    The only thing I liked in this issue was the article by Maureen Mason-Jamieson, and I’d already taken a workshop with her and learned the technique.

    Sigh. What a waste of paper. I’ve taken it off my reserve list at the bookstore.

  8. Mandy says:

    When I saw the design, I got a little warm fuzzy because it seemed so Canadian, so based on the Hudson’s Bay stuff, and I liked it for that. It never occurred to me to think of that stripe combination being copyrighted… I’ll be interested to hear what people say on this. :)

  9. Esther says:

    I saw this issue of Knitter’s for the first time today. I had checked out the gallery and nothing appealed to me, but, you know the earlier ones were so good. But the last 5 or 6, I had hardly looked at once I got them home. Time for me to give up and more so, with your findings. You know what we need, more designs from you, thought-provoking, unique, a challenge to knit and wonderful to wear in the end.

  10. Kristi says:

    It makes me think of the HBC blankets (even without the text explaining it was deliberate) but I wouldn’t assume the designer had permission. If the colors and stripes were exactly the same I’d probably think there had been an agreement between The Bay and the designer/Knitter’s to publish it.

  11. JoVE says:

    Yes I would have. and I’m sure I’ve seen another similar one not so long ago and had the same thought. Neither was anywhere near attractive enough to knit

  12. j. says:

    The Bay also sells a wingback chair upholstered with the point blanket. I’d rather have that than the coat.

    Maybe we should move on to more important questions like, why is Knitter’s obsessed with slip stitch designs (or at least, all those grid-like colourwork patterns) and why did they feel it necessary to include a bow tie pattern, and why do they insist on naming all designs in an issue according to some really lame theme?

  13. Dianna says:

    I have a Hudson Bay blanket from my Grandmother’s estate. It probably dates back at least to the 1940s in my case. My sister got the one my parents received as a wedding present. It does have the fourth stripe, which I actually had thought was black. I doubt the designer of this sweater even thought about getting permission. However, I agree with Sherry – I’d rather have the jacket from a real blanket than knit one!

  14. sherry says:

    I think your questions, while legitimate, are moot. Who would ever want to spend the time and money to KNIT this garment? It would be very boring to knit, and then it would look like it was made out of a blanket, but probably not as warm. Why not just make one out of a real blanket, and be done with it!