Social media can be a very useful tool to enable business operators to stay in touch with their networks and promote their products and services, but as a swimwear designer recently found out, it can be an expensive form of marketing if you are not careful about what you post!
The recent Federal Court case involved a swimwear designer from a fashion label “White Sands” who felt that some of her designs of ladies swimwear had been copied by a large designer “Seafolly”. After seeing the Seafolly designs exhibited at a fashion show, she posted on her personal Facebook page an album entitled “The Most Sincere Form of Flattery?” The album then showed models wearing Seafolly garments under which the White Sands designer had inserted the name of her own garment followed by a question mark. She also posted photographs of models wearing her own White Sands garments alongside the Seafolly ones with a caption “White Sands as seen at the RAFW in May – Seafolly September 2010” or “White Sands 2009 – Seafolly 2010”. The White Sands designer also approached a number of media outlets alleging that Seafolly had copied her designs.
The Federal Court of Australia, in handing down its decision, found that Seafolly had not copied the designs of White Sands and found that there had been misleading and deceptive conduct on the part of the White Sands designer which breached the Trade Practices Act and ordered her to pay $25,000.00 in damages.
When you also add in the cost of litigating in the Federal Court, you would have to think that the White Sands designer might now have second thoughts about venting on social media in the future.
The lesson for anyone in business is quite simple – if you wouldn’t put your comments on paper and sign it, then don’t say it in social media as any publication of factually inaccurate and potentially inaccurate material can expose you to a claim in damages.