Artist Says Her Teddy Bear Drawings Were Stolen

BROOKLYN (CN) – In 1983, a young and ambitious British artist sat cross-legged on the floor of her home and on scented, cream-colored paper, she says she drew a teddy bear.

Two years later, her teddy bear drawings, which she called “The Teddy Bearys,” were illegally duplicated, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court by artist Irene Patricia Scott and her attorney Baruch S. Gottesman.

Scott’s Teddy Beary is characterized by a fat tummy, oversized bow, a half-smile and a floppy head, among other features, the lawsuit states.

The 21-page complaint describes how, after she drew the Teddy Beary design, Scott “prepared a portfolio of her work and shoe-leathered her way around London to present her ideas to various toy makers and publishers.”

She says she spoke with Disney, Hasbro and two book publishers, but did not reach agreements with any of them.

Ted Menten, named as a defendant in the complaint, was commissioned to write a book about teddy bears while his company, which is not named, was hired by Hasbro to design and style toys.

Scott alleges Menten got his hands on the Teddy Beary designs “because of Menten’s retention by Hasbro and his role in the Teddy Bear industry in the early 1980s.”

The other named defendant is Long Island-based Dover Publications Inc., which the complaint claims published Menten’s book “Teddy Bear Illustrations” in 1985.

It remains in print today, and the teddy bear in the book shows remarkable resemblance to Scott’s, she argues.

The two drawings were superimposed on top of each other in the complaint — the alleged copycat in black and Scott’s in red. Scott even claims Menten copied the monogram she snuck into the bear’s ears.

“I’m very, very upset, and very hurt that Mr. Menten claims he drew my lovely Teddy Beary,” Scott said in a written statement Thursday.

Decades later, as she worked on a children’s picture book with a “Teddy Bears Picnic” theme, Scott claims she made a surprising discovery.

“On or about June 14, 2015, Ms. Scott searched ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ on Google to ensure that her draft ideas did not conflict with existing ‘Teddy Bears Picnic.’ It was then – on June 14, 2015 – that she first saw her 30+ year old The Teddy Beary image on the municipal website of Thunder Bay, California,” the lawsuit states.

“I was in shock,” Scott’s statement continued. “I just stared at the computer screen. I couldn’t believe it. And then I was very upset when I investigated more and found it everywhere. It’s on stationery, doll’s house wallpaper, wall stickers, embroidery designs, font sites, colouring pages … and websites and blogs in Russia, Thailand, Italy, Germany, China – it’s used all over the world.”

She added, “I’ve done nothing like this before with legal action and it’s not something I’d ever want to do. But I couldn’t stand seeing my Teddy Beary everywhere I look on Google.”

Scott did a little research and learned the allegedly copied version of her drawing had been licensed by Dover for commercial use as graphics, clipart and fonts.

She claims she emailed with Dover over the issue for a few months but communications broke down in December 2015.

In December 2017, Scott got a certificate of registration for the copyright in the U.K., according to a court exhibit.

She demands damages for copyright infringement, a jury trial and a recall of the defendants’ allegedly infringing products.

Her attorney, Gottesman, said in a statement Thursday, “Artistic expression on the internet via memes, digital art, etc . . . has unleashed unprecedented creativity.  It is more important than ever that the copyright law protect authors and give proper attribution to artists.”

A representative for Dover Publications also did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

A man who appears to be defendant Menten maintained a blog from 2009 to 2012 called “Ted’s Teddy Talk,” which mentions an online bear-making class he taught at EbearZ University.

A representative of the EbearZ Facebook page said it has been closed for years. A phone number listed on the page connected only to an automated survey, and offered to reward the caller with a free Caribbean cruise for two, with nominal port fees of $65 per person.

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