Last Friday night, cyclist, clothing designer and Cycle Show presenter, Anna Glowinski, took to social media claiming that online cycling store Wiggle had brought out its own version of her jersey design. The online giant has now investigated this claim internally, declaring DHB designers had "no knowledge" of Glowinski's designs.
Glowinski founded the Ana Nichoola women’s cyclewear brand and says that during her time at the company, which she left in April, Wiggle showed an interest in buying her designs. Now Glowinski is saying that the new DHB Blok Superstar jersey is Wiggle’s “own version” of her design.
On Facebook, Glowinski wrote: “18months ago @wiggle bike shop came to my design studio/office and we spent a couple of hours looking at my designs with a view to buy. A year later we talked about a collaboration. The talks went quiet and they brought out their own version. Angry? Yes! Heartbroken? More than I knew was possible! Powerful? Nope”
Glowinski received plenty of support from the online community via Facebook and Twitter following the post, with some using social media to rally against the retailer and suggesting boycott action in favour of supporting local bike shops. The claim also spawned a broader discussion on past jersey designs using stars, and the nature – and ownership – of design. Others commented upon the suitability of social media to launch such a claim.
On Saturday, Glowinski posted a picture of herself in one of her own designs, saying: “Only one top to wear today, having fun racing in wales, whilst I wait for a reply from @wigglebikeshop :)”
Speaking to BikeRadar, Glowinski said: “I have been designing cycling clothing for six years and have invested considerable time and creative energy into building my own ‘signature’ designs and styles. Although the stars are what most people picked up on with the Wiggle jersey, it was also the front panelling they have used that mirrored my Snow Cat Jacket designs.
“It looks to me like they have taken two elements from my designs and put them together. I totally understand people's comments about the stars – you can't own stars – but it is the combination of the design elements that concerned me in addition to the fact I had met Wiggle to discuss working with them."
Glowinski says the DHB jersey (left) borrows elements from her Snow Cat jersey (middle) and winter long-sleeve Star Jersey (right)
Glowinski added: “The storm created on social media has been pretty crazy – I was alerted to the jacket on Twitter and felt the blow of finding out something I didn't want to – I probably reacted a little emotionally to begin with. Although the support has been fantastic, as is the nature of social media, you get a pretty broad array of opinion so it's sometimes best to not take any of it too seriously. I am shocked by the scale of it and the heartening thing is that people do care about such issues, whatever their opinion. Ultimately, I am proud of the work I have done over the last six years and I want to protect it.”
Some commenters drew parallels with the 1979 Team USA cycling jersey
Wiggle posted a response to Glowinski’s initial claim at lunchtime on Sunday, stating its intention to investigate the situation. “Anna Glowinski made us aware by email at 23:12 on Friday that she believes Wiggle has plagiarised a design from her range of women's cycling clothing she showed us in 2013," it said. “The Wiggle colleague Anna emailed was on annual leave, though we did pick it up and respond to her at 17:32 on Saturday.
The statement continued: “We confirmed that we are taking her claim very seriously and will be investigating fully on Monday. In the meantime Anna had shared her claim and frustration on social media. We at Wiggle would like to make it clear that we work to the highest ethical standards. If a designer has indeed used Anna's designs and passed them off as their own then we will be taking full disciplinary action and ensuring that Anna benefits from the design royalties. We too would be upset, if indeed this is what has happened.”
For the sake of context, here are two other designs in the DHB Blok range
BikeRadar spoke to a legal expert, who said: "On first glance the use of the stars on the jerseys may look similar, but the issue of copyright infringement is more complex than this. A court considering this dispute would firstly have to consider whether Anna holds copyright in the design of the jersey. There may be an issue as to whether using five-pointed stars on a cycling jersey is novel or ‘original’, as some people have commented – copyright will subsist in a design which is original and expresses the author’s creativity or artistic skill.
"More often now, designers who feel that their intellectual property rights have been infringed by ‘lookalike’ copies of their goods, consider taking legal action under the laws relating to UK and EU registered and unregistered design right. However, these laws also require that designs meet a threshold for novelty and originality to qualify for protection."
Following the publication of Wiggle’s statement, Glowinski told us: “With regards to Wiggle – they have responded really positively and I am encouraged that we will be able to resolve things amicably. Both their email and statement has put me at ease that we will come to a mutually acceptable conclusion.”
At 5pm today, Wiggle released the following statement via Twitter:
"Hi friends of Wiggle.
"As promised, following our internal investigation here is our statement regarding Anna Glowinski.
"At Wiggle we pride ourselves on our integrity, fairness and transparency. Therefore we have taken the claim made by Anna Glowinski (through Facebook on Friday 24th October 2014) that we have plagiarised one of her designs for our new dhb ‘Superstar’ Jersey very seriously.
"After conducting a detailed and thorough internal investigation we have concluded that no plagiarism has occurred and that no designer employed by us (directly or indirectly) has broken any of our policies or, more importantly, contravened our values.
"We categorically do not participate in or condone plagiarism under any circumstances. This is a zero tolerance policy for us. Our review gives us full confidence in our internal processes and the integrity of our staff in ensuring that this could not happen. We thank our colleagues for their openness and support in resolving this issue in a timely manner.
"As this story is in the public domain, for our customers’ information and on behalf of our hard working colleagues that have been affected by this story, we layout our key findings below:
• On 17/1/2013, Anna Glowinski met with members of our Cycle Clothing Buying team at the London Bicycle Show at Excel.
• On 24/1/2013, Anna Glowinski sent a proposal to our Cycle Clothing Buying team regarding the possibility of her designing an exclusive collection for Wiggle.
• On 12/7/2013 our Cycle Clothing Buying team met with Anna to discuss this potential collaboration.
• On 7/8/2013, having reviewed Anna’s proposal, our Cycle Clothing Buying team emailed Anna, politely declining to range the product and sharing our feedback with her.
• On 21/7/2014, following her resignation from AnaNichoola, Anna Glowinski contacted our Cycle Clothing Buying team again, enquiring if there was the possibility of her working for Wiggle. We considered this kind offer carefully, but again decided to decline this proposal. No designs or products were discussed in these subsequent communications.
• It is important to highlight that our Cycle Clothing Buying team (based in Portsmouth) work independently from our dhb Design Team (based in London). There has never until this investigation been a conversation between these two teams at Wiggle regarding Anna Glowinski or AnaNichoola.
• Therefore it is unsurprising that in parallel (and unrelated to) the conversations and meetings between Anna and our Cycle Clothing Buying Team, our London based dhb Design team were independently working on our Autumn/Winter 2014 range, including our ‘Superstar’ Jersey. We register the intellectual property of all of our designs and to do this must save all of the ‘inspiration materials’ and initial ‘draft designs’. We can confirm with confidence by reviewing this audit trail, that the dhb Design team had no knowledge of any conversation with Anna Glowinski, nor any sight of her designs. Additionally, there had been no communication between our Portsmouth Cycle Clothing Buying Team and our London dhb Design Team relating to this new range.
• The inspiration for the Superstar Jersey (and indeed the other designs in our dhb Blok range, which it forms part of) involved many influences, including national flags and jockey jerseys – absolutely none of which could be traced from AnaNichoola or Anna Glowinski. To be clear the dhb Design team have never been in contact with Anna Glowinski or AnaNichoola Ltd at any stage.
"We have shared this statement with Anna before publishing and have offered to meet up and take her though our design process and all of our inspiration material. We appreciate that the coincidence of the designs might have been puzzling for her, though there are so many designs in the marketplace today that it is unsurprising that these similarities coincidently appear from time to time. We wish Anna every success in her new endeavors.
"We would also like to take this opportunity to reassure our loyal customers that we, as ever, stay true to the core ethics and principles that have led to our success to date and thank them for their continued support and custom.
"Thanks for reading.