Zazzle Sued for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Intellectual Property Theft, Says Bartko Law Firm

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One of the world’s top graphic designers today filed a lawsuit against internet design and printing giant Zazzle, Inc. for allegedly defrauding his company of his intellectual property , earning Zazzle hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains. profits.

Nicky Laatz, one of the world’s leading designers of premium custom fonts, filed this lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that Zazzle fraudulently and secretly obtained its Blooming Elegant Trio software from fonts for use on the Zazzle website.

Link to lawsuit: https://www.bzbm.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Laatz-v.-Zazzle-Complaint-8-24-22.pdf.

According to the complaint, Zazzle asked its senior network engineer to impersonate an individual designer and obtain a single-user license for the Blooming Elegant Trio of fonts, but in reality the fonts were obtained for the illegal use. by Zazzle. Zazzle then uploaded the software to its servers and made the fonts available to tens of millions of Zazzle designers and customers without permission or compensation to the designer.

Nicky Laatz typically charged $17 per user for these premium fonts. Because its trio of Blooming Elegant fonts quickly became one of the most popular fonts on Zazzle, the company was able to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from its illegal use of the fonts and avoid paying hundreds of millions. dollars in license fees. , without compensation to Ms. Laatz.

The lawsuit seeks to restore all of Zazzle’s hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the illegal use of Laatz’s popular Blooming Elegant font trio, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in lost licensing revenue related to the fact that Zazzle provided the fonts to its dozens. millions of unlicensed users. Claims in the case include fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment, promise fraud, copyright and trademark infringement, and breach of contract.

“This is a brazen case of fraud, committed by a widely recognized, multi-billion dollar brand against the very kind of creative talent that Zazzle claims to support,” said Ms. Laatz’s lead attorney, Patrick M. Ryan of the Bartko law. solidify. “When Zazzle was unable to obtain a license for use on its site, Zazzle asked one of its senior engineers to impersonate an individual designer so that he could obtain a single-user license, while still secretly planning to give the font software to Zazzle to use on its site.

“And then Zazzle flip-flopped and gave its tens of millions of designers and users access to fonts without compensation to the artist. It’s outrageous and it’s one of the cases of fraud the most obvious I have ever seen in over twenty years of practicing law,” Mr. Ryan said.

Zazzle, based in Menlo Park, is one of the most successful online marketplaces for designers looking to create and sell to the public a wide range of personalized items including invitations, business cards, greeting cards holidays and greetings, clothing, art and office supplies. .

Zazzle is reportedly gearing up for an IPO that would value it at up to $2 billion. Yet while the company has raked in hundreds of millions in profits from the unauthorized use of Laatz’s intellectual property for more than five years, it hasn’t received a single penny in royalties from Zazzle.

“Zazzle…is built on a lie that it supports, promotes, and fairly compensates artists and designers for their creative work. In reality, Zazzle’s high valuation and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profits are largely due to designers’ intellectual property that Zazzle stole and failed to compensate properly, if at all,” according to the lawsuit. filed today.

UK-based Nicky Laatz has carefully crafted the Blooming Elegant Trio of fonts to be an extremely balanced and enjoyable writing style, and they are widely considered by designers to be among the best such fonts available. Indeed, such was their reputation and popularity that Zazzle actively marketed the fonts by name, and Blooming Elegant was quickly ranked as the #2 script font by Zazzle over three years ago.

The complaint alleges that the Blooming Elegant Trio of fonts are the most popular fonts with Zazzle’s most successful graphic designers who have their own online storefronts on Zazzle’s website and whose work is among the most popular designs and products. by Zazzle.

The Blooming Elegant Trio has proven extremely profitable for Zazzle. These fonts have become the major design element in countless wildly popular items by some of Zazzle’s most celebrated designers, including ten of Zazzle’s 24 most popular business card designs and many of its best business card invitations. wedding. Several of Zazzle’s highest-paying designers, who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars or more a year on Zazzle, have relied on fonts for a substantial portion of their product offerings.

Two years ago, in late August 2020, Laatz discovered the deception when a Zazzle user contacted her for help with using fonts on the Zazzle website. Shocked, Laatz demanded that Zazzle stop offering its fonts to its designers and customers. She also demanded that Zazzle provide her with a full list of the products designed and/or sold on its website that used her fonts, as well as a full statement of the company’s revenues and profits from the improper use of her fonts. intellectual property.

Yet the company not only refused her requests, but continued to openly offer the Blooming Elegant Trio of fonts under its own name, for which Ms. Laatz has a trademark, until earlier this month, when Zazzle inexplicably replaced the Blooming Elegant Font Trio. with cheap imitations, one of which was copied from Blooming Elegant itself – extending the harm to Zazzle’s own designers and users who are also victims of the fraud.

“Unfortunately, this appears to be a pattern of behavior for Zazzle, which has done the same for other custom font designers,” Ryan added. “We’re asking the court to not only compensate Nicky for the designers and the millions of dollars they embezzled from his business, but also to return Zazzle the enormous profits he made from Nicky Laatz’s stunning designs. ”

About Bartko Law Firm

Bartko, established over 40 years ago, is a boutique law firm specializing in complex domestic and international litigation and investigations, as well as real estate and franchising transactions.

It is a firm of more than 40 attorneys dedicated to leading-edge strategic representation of clients in California, nationally and internationally. Bartko’s practice areas include representing plaintiffs and defendants in complex commercial litigation, antitrust and competition claims, intellectual property litigation, trade secret litigation, anti-infringement, complex employment litigation, strategic employment and labor advice and collective bargaining, and real estate litigation, among others.

Bartko’s lead attorney in this case is Patrick M. Ryan, who is one of the top trial attorneys in the United States. Recent victories include: (1) serving as co-lead counsel in the defense of Sutter Health against antitrust claims by class action plaintiffs in the Northern District of California where, after a 5-week trial, the jury found returned a verdict in favor of Sutter Health and against plaintiffs seeking $411 million in damages, which would have been trebled; (2) lead plaintiff attorney in a trade secret case in Santa Clara County, California, where he won a nearly $900 million jury verdict on behalf of a major international technology company.

In 2020, Patrick was named Top Trade Secret Lawyer for 2020 by the California Daily Journal. As a result of one of his jury verdicts, Bartko was ranked number 3 in the Top 100 Verdicts – published by The National Law Journal (June 2019) – and having the highest ranked intellectual property win in the states. United for that year. And the California Daily Journal’s Top Verdicts publication named Patrick’s case the highest intellectual property and trade secret win in California and the second highest judgment of 2019.

As part of his practice, Patrick helps companies better protect their intellectual property and coordinates investigations of potential intellectual property theft for companies accused of stealing trade secrets and for companies that may have been victims of such flights. In this case, Patrick seeks to enforce the rights of a prominent artist whose intellectual property has been stolen and exploited by Zazzle.

Co-Counsel Stephen Steinberg is a trial attorney at Bartko, specializing in representing technology companies in litigation involving intellectual property and other complex business issues, including claims for theft of trade secrets, trademark infringement and copyrights, and disputes involving startups and founders. He regularly represents plaintiffs and defendants in such cases and advises companies on how to protect their intellectual property against competitors and avoid competitor claims against them. He second presided over the trial in the aforementioned trade secret case that led to a nearly $900 million jury verdict that was ranked as one of the largest in 2019.

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