For this month’s Meetup, attendees were invited to a new maker space—so new, in fact, that this was the first event hosted at brickPDX. Located in a Southeast Portland building shared with a bakery, a comic shop, and more, the new space is poised to support the maker community through pop-ups and communal work space, and it served as an expansive location for one of our best-attended Maker Meetups to date.
A massive skylight and ample windows showed off the potential of the space, which even served as a photography studio for one of our special features this month—an opportunity to have professional headshots taken by Nicholas Peter Wilson. Wilson was able to get through several photographs before attendees were asked to take their seats.
Director Meghan Sinnott reminded us of the three aims of all Maker Meetups—to connect, to check out maker spaces, and to learn something new—before inviting Jaime Schmidt and Chris Cantino of Schmidt’s Naturals and Color. to talk about their support of new developments at Portland Made. Stressing the importance of entrepreneurial community organizations, the couple shared their experience in growing a local business from humble roots into a household name, and teased exciting new announcements the community can expect this summer.
Next, the night’s speaker, the self-described (and trademarked!) Lawyer-Human Shreya Ley, introduced herself. Having worked as a lawyer in established firms for about six years, she transitioned into more customer-focused, accessible work to help makers and other creatives seeking representation for issues of intellectual property.
Ley spoke about all things copyright through an anecdote about the trajectory of an innovative French press cozy. Originally made for the creator’s personal use to keep her coffee warm, the cozy was something that she had seen used for tea for ages, but never for coffee, her preferred caffeinated beverage. Soon, her friends were asking her if she could make them their own cozies, and it wasn’t much longer before she started to profit off them, using the name Bodum Buddy and leasing a manufacturing facility to satisfy customer demand.
And then, the cease and desist letter came. Bodum, the leading French press manufacturer she named the cozy after, demanded that she stop using their name on her product. That meant buying new packaging, destroying labels, and essentially building her brand back up from scratch, a very costly endeavor. Had the creator done more research, a lot of these headaches could have been avoided. Some key takeaways from Ley included the following:
- Don’t name your product after a big brand. Many of these big brands have lawyers on retainer, and they will sue if they see a conflict of interest or someone profiting off their name. The costs of litigation can put a maker just starting off out of business fast.
- Do your research. Is there anyone else out there doing what you do? Can you use the name/the recipe/the design that you want without violating any patents or trademarks? It never hurts to consult a lawyer who can do this research for you, too, especially if you’re not legal-savvy.
- If you are making money off it, it’s worth protecting. Seek out patents, and trademark your work. This is essentially your way of showing that you were the first to create something, and it allows you to sue for damages when others create copycat products.
Ley took questions both throughout her presentation and well after the formal portion of the evening concluded. Makers then stayed after for an incredibly active, engaged networking session, enjoying local goodies from brands like Reverend Nat’s, Olympia Provisions, and The Baker’s Mark, and making sure to get their headshots.