Texprint mentor’s story: Simon Gallant, lawyer

08 June 2016 by Roger Tredre

Lawyer Simon Gallant is a long-time mentor at Texprint London, advising young designers on how to protect their work from knock-offs – and much more besides. We spoke to him about his involvement with Texprint.

Legal advice and guidance are among the support services offered every year to the 24 designers chosen for Texprint. For many years, Texprint’s go-to lawyer has been Simon Gallant, Senior Consultant with Gallant Maxwell, the firm he founded in 2006.

Gallant has had a long affinity with the industry – his first-ever job was selling clothes in London’s Berwick Street. Textiles is a global business, making it challenging for creative designers to ensure their work is not exploited elsewhere. Gallant’s focus at Texprint is on teaching designers the basics – starting with keeping a good record of designs and when they were created.

How did you first become involved with Texprint?

About 20 years ago I was introduced to Christian Dewar Durie (a long-term supporter of Texprint and council member) by a friend. Christian sweet-talked me into doing something worthwhile for young British designers at a time when the Far East seemed to be taking over the world of textiles.

You are a very busy lawyer – why do you enjoy mentoring young graduate designers?

I love seeing their work every year and am just amazed by the graduates’ incredible creativity. What has upset me over the years is seeing them get ripped off. I want to pass on the basics of the law and business. There are some nasty people out there!

I have always had an affinity with the industry. My first job when I was 16 was selling clothing in Berwick Street. My second was delivering clothes from a manufacturer to wholesalers all over the east end of London. I’m not sure how reputable my employers were. I’m probably some sort of poacher turned gamekeeper.

Do you think young designers are paying sufficient attention to IP (intellectual property) matters?

Obviously the focus should be on creativity but my experience is that many of the most successful designers are those who have a nose for business too. That means not being silly about giving away your IP and standing up for yourself.

What basic first steps should all young designers take to protect their original work?

Keep a good record of when you created your designs. It’s not rocket science and a simple card system or folder on your PC is fine. And be clear about what IP you are selling or simply just licensing.

© Jayne Goulding 2015

When a designer with relatively small resources finds someone is knocking off their work, what step should they take first? Is it wisest to turn to a lawyer straight away?

Good question, and always a difficult one to answer. Apart from the economic disadvantages faced by a young designer, there is also the fear (perhaps more imagined than real) of ‘getting a bad name’.

In practice, the answer varies. Sometimes a party can be shamed into settling a claim, fearing bad publicity, so a softly, softly approach could work. But in my experience the prospects of achieving a settlement will be higher if a lawyer is on board, even if the lawyer does not go in all guns blazing. If nothing else, the lawyer can take out some of the emotion and say things that a designer might not want to say for themselves.

If paying a lawyer is out of the question, you can always go it alone through the IPEC (Intellectual Property Enterprise Court), a small claims court, that means you won’t end up paying the other side’s costs even if you lose. The court staff can often be very helpful. In my experience, many designers have been able to get a decent outcome, even without legal help.

What kind of feedback do you get from the Texprint designers?

I often bring along a box filled with knock-offs, particularly of Liberty Fabrics, one of my clients. I never fail to be amazed by the jaw-dropping shock etched on their faces and it makes me realise – yes, this is shocking, we need to fight it!

Finally, I believe you also work in media and entertainment. Is the design sector behind the curve in relation to IP matters, or improving?

We have been behind the curve, especially because protection only lasts for 25 years. That’s a big deal with old established businesses with antique archives. But change is on the way – from next year, author’s life plus 70 years.

One of the big issues is that copyright involves supply chains around the world – usually starting in the Far East – but copyright is local in nature so there is an element of having to shop around. My jurisdictions of choice are the UK, France and the USA. 

© Jessica Stewart 2014

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