Brands That Were Shamelessly Ripped Off

Branding is everything. But some companies rip off and steal from others. Here are the most shocking cases of blatantly ripped off brands.

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Branding is everything. Done right, a company’s logo, color palette, and tone of voice have the power to create a lasting impression on customers. Leading global companies know that branding and advertising is a key part of their success, which is why they spend billions on it.

Some companies don’t have billions in their budgets though, so they go down another route: they steal from others. Here are the 20 most shocking cases of blatantly ripped off brands.

20. Disney

It turns out that Disney isn’t above stealing artwork from independent artists, either. For instance, the original artwork for their Alice in Wonderland cosmetics bag came from a painting that Katie Woodger created back in 2010 while she was at university.

And if that wasn’t enough, Disney also produced this t-shirt that looks like it may have been inspired by Katie’s work, too. Disney no longer stocks the items – is that an admission of guilt? Sure seems like one.

katie woodger disney copyright

19. Zara

High-street fashion giant Zara made the news in 2016 when it was accused of stealing designs from Tuesday Bassen, an independent artist from LA. An angry social media campaign confronted Zara, and it suspended the sale of all items featuring any potentially ripped off imagery.

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This isn’t the only time a fashion brand has ripped off an independent artist; it’s actually depressingly common. For instance, Forever 21 copied Bow & Drape’s Hangry t-shirt and Sporty & Rich’s hoodie.

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But Zara seems to be the most prolific repeat offender – they’ve been caught out many more times since the Tuesday Bassen saga.

18. Pur Apparel

Most artists are furious when they realize they’ve been ripped off, but some artists take a different approach when they discover their artwork appears where it shouldn’t be. When Daniel Ignacio found one of his paintings for sale on a hoodie on a site called Pur Apparel he sent out the tweet below.

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According to Daniel, the first time your art is stolen signifies that you’ve made it as an artist.

17. Apple Competitors

With a value of over $214 billion, it’s no great surprise that competitors are queuing up to rip off their ideas to try and grab a slice of that lucrative Apple pie. After all, Apple invented the classic single-screen smartphone layout that has been adopted by all other phone companies, but there are many other subtle details its competitors have copied.

First up, when Acer introduced AcerCloud six months after Apple introduced iCloud, there was definitely a collective sense of déjà vu in its presentation. And the packaging is copied by competitors as well. Samsung can’t get enough of copying Apple’s product and packaging designs with their Galaxy tab.

Brands That Were Shamelessly Ripped Off

Sony and Nokia are up to the same tricks, too. They removed their headphone jacks from their phones just like Apple did with their iPhone 7, just without offering anything as cool as AirPods as an alternative.

16. Sandwich

China loves counterfeit goods so much that they even have a word for it: shanzhai. One of the best examples of shanzhai is the sandwich shop in the image below, with its very original name.

Fake Subway Beijing 1 chinese subway copycat

Which other sandwich shop does the logo remind you of? Of course, it’s Subway. And it’s not just the sign that’s stolen. If you check out the inside of the restaurant, you’d be forgiven for not even realizing it isn’t a Subway.

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15. Mini Cooper

Shanzhai culture can be seen in China’s automotive industry, too. From the red paint job and white go faster stripes to those iconic headlights, it’s pretty clear that the Lifan 320 is a copy of the Mini Cooper.

2010 Lifan 320 frontview
Swoolverton, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Not only is the Lifan 320 a total rip-off of the Mini, but it’s also said to be one of the least safe cars on the market. According to tests, even a minor crash could cause serious injury to the driver and their passenger which is just one more reason to stick to the original.

14. Mad Shelia

There are literally hundreds of movies ripped off by Chinese production companies, but this one has to be one of the most blatant. Mad Shelia is a film created by Tencent Video that is an unapologetic low-budget rip-off version of Mad Max Fury Road.

Not only does the poster look suspiciously similar, but the plot is also almost identical, as are the shots and vehicles. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for Warner Bros. Pictures to stop this from happening since China is notoriously lax with its copyright protection laws.

mad-max-ripoff-mad-sheila-china

13. Marvel vs DC

It will probably come as no surprise to comic book fans that Marvel and DC have a long history of ripping each other off. Take DC’s Catwoman, for example. She was introduced in Batman #1 in 1940 and was a huge hit.

So, in 1979, Marvel introduced Black Cat: their very own feline villain. And Marvel also tried, with limited success, to create their own Superman first with Sentry then with Hyperion.

 Brands Shamelessly Ripped Off Marvel DC Superman Hyperion Sentry

DC is equally as guilty of stealing ideas though. Dr. Doom is the infamous villain of the Fantastic Four and is one of the most successful antagonists ever created by Marvel. It’s maybe unsurprising, then, that DC wanted a piece of the Doctor action and created Dr. Dread.

 Brands Shamelessly Ripped Off Dr. Doom Dr. Dread

Also, despite being more widely known, Aquaman appeared 2 years after his aquatic Marvel counterpart, Namor. Furthermore, DC loved the idea of Iron man so much that they created Rocket red.

 Brands Shamelessly Ripped Off Iron man rocket red

12. Chanel

When Chanel showed sweaters featuring traditional Scottish designs in 2016 the world suddenly began paying attention to classic Fair Isle patterns. One woman was paying more attention than most though because it was her designs she was seeing on a catwalk in Rome.

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Mati Ventrillon, an artisanal knitter on Fair Island, accused Chanel of copying her work. Mati posted about it on her Facebook page, and Chanel eventually apologized and credited her as the inspiration for her design.

11. Ford

When a Ford dealership announced a sale event in 2016 it caught the public’s attention for the entirely wrong reason. It turns out, they blatantly stole developer Campo Santo’s artwork. The rip off isn’t even subtle.

The artwork was created at Campo Santo for the popular Firewatch game, and the Ford dealership claims that they came across the artwork on a wallpaper website and that the whole thing is a misunderstanding.

Ford & Campo Santo
©Ford & Campo Santo

This doesn’t seem to be true, though as some of the artwork was allegedly only available on a Campo Santo website so Ford must have known exactly what they were doing. Ford issued an apology to Campo Santo, and Panic, who are co-producers of Firewatch; they were happy to accept it.

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10. Land Rover

The Land Rover is one of the most iconic cars ever to have been built, so it’s no surprise that someone decided to rip it off: Tata Safari a.k.a the Indian Land Rover. Tata Motor’s unique selling point is building cheap cars for the Indian market, including the Land Rover knockoff that they launched in 1998.

Tata Safari 4x4
Corvettec6r, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s particularly interesting about this case is how Tata avoided getting sued for stealing the Land Rover design. In a smart move, they simply bought Jaguar Land Rover, the makers of the original Land Rover.

In an ironic twist, they are now on the opposite end of fighting plagiarism, as China is now ripping off their designs. The LandWind X7, for instance, looks almost identical to the Range Rover Evoque, except it costs about one-third the price.

Landwind X7 2 China 2016-04-07
Navigator84, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

9. Kokon To Zai

The image below shows Ava, an Inuit shaman. The parka he’s wearing is made of caribou skin and was created to offer him spiritual protection. Compare that to the sweater made by high-end European designer, Kokon To Zai.

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They look identical and Ava’s family is furious that the design was taken without their permission. According to Salome Awa, Ava’s great-granddaughter, Awa envisioned the design himself in the early 1920s.

He believed someone was going to drown him, so he designed the hands and the little man on the parka as safeguards. Plenty of people have had their say on the designer’s Facebook page, and they’re scathing, to say the least.

8. Mudd

Lili Chin is no stranger to people stealing her work, and one day she noticed that fashion and homeware website Kohls was stocking a t-shirt with very familiar imagery on it. Mudd, the creators of the t-shirt, denied any copyright infringement despite them being almost identical to Lili’s drawings.

In the end, Lili filed a $1 million copyright infringement suit against Kohls, and they eventually settled, with Lili receiving an undisclosed amount she was pleased with.

Brands Shamelessly Ripped Off Mudd Lili Chin

7. Uncle Martian

Check out the branding of Uncle Martian, a Chinese sportswear brand. Do you recognize that logo from somewhere? It definitely looks a lot like Under Armour’s branding.

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Uncle Martian’s management denied any copyright infringement but Under Armour wasn’t about to let it go. The company launched a year-long legal battle and eventually succeeded in banning them from using their logo.

They were also awarded 2 million yuan or over a quarter of a million US dollars in damages. Whether Fred Perry has noticed that its logo might also have served as inspiration remains a mystery.

6. Instagram Stories

When Snapchat launched it offered a new way of sharing videos and images. So Instagram ripped off that method and saw massive success with it. When Instagram introduced its Stories its users shot up by 250 million in the year after it launched. Snapchat has, in contrast, been in constant decline since around that time.

Interestingly, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion but the offer was rejected. Perhaps Instagram Stories would never have been launched if Snapchat had said yes.

Brands Shamelessly Ripped Off Instagram Snapchat Stories

5. Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo is one of the most popular animated movies of all time. But, less well known is the French children’s book from which it allegedly originated. Franck Le Calvez says that Nemo the clownfish bears a clear resemblance to his character Pierrot Le Poisson-Clown, which he says he created in 1995 and turned into the hero of a children’s book.

pierrot le poisson clown nemo

Both Nemo and Pierrot live in an anemone and lose a parent to a predator. Both characters also encounter a cleaning prawn on their adventures. Disney and Pixar, who own Finding Nemo, denied the claim, stating that the film and its characters were independently developed. I don’t know about Franck, but taking on a big fish like Pixar would be a risky move!

4. Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner rose to fame on the reality series Keeping up with the Kardashians and her Kylie Cosmetics range has been valued at $1 billion. But it seems that she’s not quite the self-made billionaire she bills herself as.

Kylie rips off other brands a lot! LA-based makeup artist Vlada Haggerty accused Kylie of stealing her dripping lips imagery, and it’s easy to see why. Kylie is clearly a fan of Vlada’s work because she copied her more than once with promotional images.

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Vlada sued and the case was settled out of court. Furthermore, Kyllie's signature camo clothing range also seems to have been nicked, this time from PluggedNYC. The brand’s owner posted the photo below on social media next to an image of Kylie modeling her line.

4149FB2400000578-4589664-image-m-63 1497035085126

It could just be a coincidence though, right? Wrong, because one of Kylie’s team actually contacted PluggedNYC for samples shortly before the copycat range was launched. Shame on you, Kylie.

4149FB0C00000578-4589664-image-m-73 1497035202475
PluggedNYC Instagram

3. Sketchers

You’ve probably heard of TOMS, the ethical brand that created some iconic shoes and who donates to impoverished communities when you make a purchase. But have you heard of BOBS? The other ethical brand that donates shoes to poor children when you buy their shoes?

BOBS, by Sketchers, are so blatantly ripped off from TOMS that it’s laughable.

0c2619a55da4a1e4e6099d029c75f509
PR Handout

The name, the shoe’s design, and the brands’ ethical promises are identical. Though it's blatant plagiarism, it all ends with more donations of shoes to children in need, so this one isn’t so bad after all.

2. VK vs Facebook

Facebook is one of the best-known brands around the globe. That is, everywhere but Russia. Over there, they have their own original social media platform called VK. Only it’s not so original; it looks exactly like Facebook.

Brands Shamelessly Ripped Off Facebook VK Russia

VK is the second most popular website in Russia, and users actually say that VK is superior to Facebook. After all, it's Russian, made for Russians, so it's more aware of national slang and local cultural specifics.

Apparently, it’s also more secure, has a better design, better search algorithms, and is generally more fun. You can sign up to VK from anywhere, but it’s not particularly popular outside Russia so you might be hanging out there alone.

1. Oreos

Oreos are perhaps the best example ever of how important marketing leads to a successful product. Oreo dates all the way back to 1912 and is the bestselling cookie in the US, but it wasn’t the first chocolate sandwich cookie to hit the market. Hydrox was, but you probably never heard of it.

Brands That Were Shamelessly Ripped Off

Hydrox was launched in 1908 and was the clear inspiration for Oreo, but the folks behind Hydrox hadn’t thought through their marketing plans. For starters, who calls a biscuit Hydrox? This name sounds more like a cleaning fluid.

Oreo’s manufacturer Nabisco was purchased by the owner of Kraft Foods for $14.91 billion in 2000, which is definitive proof that marketing pays! As does stealing other companies’ ideas!

I hope you were amazed, or disgusted, by these brands that were shamelessly ripped off. Thanks for reading.

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