Yesterday, a very interesting comment was left of my blog post called DONNA DOWNEY AND THE TALE OF FOSSIL PURSE BIRDGATE:

Just as a quick FYI because the bag photo clearly shows our brand, Art of Possibility®, clearly printed, Art of Possibility® is a registered trademark of Art of Possibility LLC and its use in this case is an infringement of our trademark. That bag and its creator have no relationship with Art of Possibility. Please, please don’t mistake this for an authentic Art of Possibility® product.

It was left by Ketra Oberlander and here is the photo she’s referring to:

Ketra is not a regular reader and I’m not familiar with her, so I did some looking around. I noticed on the YOU THOUGHT WE WOULDN’T NOTICE blog post I mentioned in my last DD entry, that Ketra had also added this comment:

To add yet another layer: my company, Art of Possibility® LLC, owns “art of possibility,” clearly printed on the bag. Why is Donna Downey using my company’s trademark on her bag? So stunningly bizarre … and without our permission.

In my research, I found out that Donna Downey and Ketra Oberlander/Art of Possibility Studios were both part of the DESIGNER SHOWCASE at CHA-W in Jan.-Feb. 2011. {Wow, now THAT is interesting, isn’t it?!?!}

I followed Ketra’s website link and this is what I found: AOPSTUDIOS.COM. Yep, AOP stands for “Art of Possibility,” the same phrase Donna used on the purse she created and held a CHA class on (or planned to? I still don’t know for sure if the class was actually held and what it entailed). The same purse that she created a bird stamp from, which she planned to distribute through UNITY STAMPS (but they pulled it prior to CHA-W in late January).

Okay, let’s talk about “Art of Possibility Studios.” This is from their website:

Art of Possibility® Studios exclusively represents physically disabled artists via license to manufacturers interested in connecting with consumers on a meaningful level and with cause oriented programs at retail.

By choosing Art of Possibility® brand products consumers become true Patrons of the Arts through their purchase, supporting the artists in a for-profit business model which liberates them from dependence on charity and creates a path for their participation as equals in our society.

Founded by award-winning blind painter Ketra Oberlander, the Art of Possibility® aspires to encourage and inspire you to transcend expectation and be your best.

If you take a peek at their ARTISTS PAGE, you’re going to be blown away by these amazing artists and what they accomplish.

Okay, at this point, obviously, my scrapbook-obsessive personality disorder went from 0 to 60 in nothing flat! Holy cow. Even more Donna Drama. Ack.

Since my ORIGINAL DONNA POST on January 31, 2011, I haven’t commented on this issue again, even though I planned to. Part of that was because I’ve been really busy with work/home and then I got sick.

But part of it has also been I didn’t know what else to say. The original DD Birdgate thread on 2peas NSBR had been pulled by The Powers That Be over there (although the more mild one, which focused mostly on Unity’s role in the contro is still available HERE). I lost track of how long the NSBR thread got but I want to say it was beyond 20 pages. I never got past reading page 13 or so, and I don’t know what – if any – new revelations I missed. But it appears that Donna Downey has not publicly referenced the Birdgate issue. {If I missed it, will someone please help me out with a linkee?}

Some speculate that she’s keeping her mouth shut for legal reasons, which I would think is a wicked smart move. Donna’s ORIGINAL BLOG POST showing the purse is still available to view, including all of the negative and name-calling comments. I just left a comment myself, asking if she’s going to comment publicly on the issue. I’ll let you know if I hear anything back … but I doubt it will happen.

I don’t know, call me crazy, but on something like this, I prefer to hear both sides of a story before I come out with guns blazing and a strong opinion. Especially on my blog, if you know what I mean. Leaving a comment on someone else’s blog or in a message board thread is one thing, publishing it on your own blog is another. So slam me if you will, but I’m not going to make some big Proclamation of Hate against Donna Downey. Yet.

What I will say is that all signs are pointing to her doing something wrong. Signs point to her making some serious mistakes. Signs point to her being a really careless business woman. Signs point to her not being a very nice person.

That said, I’ve never worked in the crafting industry, the legal industry, nor the big-time business world. I’m not educated in this stuff. I can’t whip out copyright law, trademark law, the life history of Donna Downey, how CHA works, how stamp designs are commissioned, or anything else. I don’t know if her silence is her ducking and covering, or if it’s being enforced by her lawyers, Fossil’s lawyers, Prima’s lawyers, CHA’s lawyers, and/or Unity’s lawyers.

It’s hard to form a strong opinion when there’s so much I DON’T know.

All I can say as a layperson is that this does NOT look good for Donna nor her integrity. If what’s been revealed so far IS all there is, if she has no defense to play, if we aren’t assuming to much … then she’s done wrong. Again.

So let’s get back to Ketra and “Art of Possibility.” I e-mailed her with a bunch of questions and asked if I could publish her answers on my blog (although I was more than willing not to). I asked things like whether legal action is being pursued, whether the bird/building design is involved (it’s not), etc. Here is her answer, in it’s entirety:

My lawyer is following up with Donna so I don’t want to get into a bunch of speculation.

To be clear, my company owns the words “art of possibility” for consumer goods/art &surface design work. I trademarked the term in 2008 when I established the company. That means you could use “art of possibility” for, say, a business management book or seminar on the stock market or something, but for art & design and consumer goods, any use is an infringement.

Another CHA member drew the infringement to my attention and I now troll around blogs looking for that specific promo photo and post something whenever it comes up. I’m not a huge blog reader so it’s all “extra work” on this end, although your blog made the work quite pleasant. Thanks for covering so many interesting issues in crafting.

As a CHA designer member who exhibited for the last two years (I took a break this year), I’m certainly a “known quantity” in the community. I’ve been a Surtex and Licensing Expo exhibitor for the past 3 years, teach seminars on art licensing for LIMA and will be teaching “Art Licensors’ Top 10 Mistakes” for Licensing University this year. The last two years I’ve written the art licensing chapter for Aspen Publishing’s The Licensing Journal/Update.

I could tell from your email your curiosity is piqued; I cannot begin to speculate on Donna’s motives; I don’t know her personally. I do find infringing on the IP of a company dedicated to serve a community marginalized by physical disability a really weird choice. Since my lawyer’s following up with Donna there’s no reason to make a big stink; that’s just business, I guess. But business is made up of people, and I’m sure I’ll always wonder about Donna’s decision to use our trademark.

You may reprint all or part of my reply and attribute it to me: Ketra Oberlander, Founder, Art of Possibility LLC. You may also direct people to our web site so they can learn about the very cool work we’re doing to elevate humanity through our creative output. ;-)

Ketra is one classy lady, that’s all I can say. I truly admire the way she’s handling things, and fully support her. My one big hope ~ out of all this scrapbooker drama ~ is that if nothing else comes from it, let’s be thankful that our attention was drawn to Ketra, her work, and the Art of Possibility organization and artists. If there’s anything you can do to support them and their work, please do :)

I predict this will not be the last we hear regarding this Donna Downey Adventure. I predict there will be more in the future. No matter what controversies happen to DD, she seems to keep on going, maintaining fans, holding workshops, and being paid handsomely for doing what she does.

Stay tuned … there WILL be more! LOL

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  1. avatar

    Ketra can use Google Alerts which will send her an email any time the phrase “art of possibility” is used on the web …

    I use it for a different phrase (and for a different reason) and it works like a charm!

  2. avatar

    Holy mother of all things trademarked. Wow, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more weird. Well, you said that Donna continues to make money off of holding workshops, and being paid handsomely for doing what she does, etc. Let’s just hope she’s not trying to get paid handsomely from what others do, too. ;) Right? The ones who really will be getting paid handsomely for all of this will be everyone’s lawyers. This is starting to get really hard to believe. Instead of the waters getting clearer, they are getting more muddied. (love to read what you write, miss your company)

  3. avatar
    Paula DiGiovanni says:

    Thank you for posting this follow-up. I admire you for remaining neutral on this issue. I however, always vote with my pocketbook, whether it be retail stores, online companies, or in this case, Miss DD. She was wrong, clear and blatant about it.

  4. avatar
    Michele says:

    wow is all I can say. lol to be honest I have never heard of Donna Downey. I know shocking I must have been living in a cave. At the time I didn’t know about this two peas board a few years back and that when I really started scrapbooking. It always so sad when someone ‘steals” someone else’s concept. Even on Facbook I have seen someone steals digital pages and place it on their own sites as their own pages it is getting to points that you can’t even post without someone’s else stealing.

  5. avatar
    Nicole says:

    The phrase – “the art of possibility” – which is trademarked by Ms Oberlander that appears on Donna Downey’s bird purse is an iron-on image manufactured, endorsed and sold by Prima Marketing:
    Perhaps Ms Oberlander’s lawyers should be in touch with them too. Just saying.

  6. avatar

    Prima Marketing Inc is one of the companies that Donna Downey designs for, according to her blog. So I’m not all that surprised to find them selling an iron-on design that is “the art of possibility”.

  7. avatar

    Hello My Friend!

    I was stopping by to let you know that I screwed up my blog (big time) and now have a new address… I lost all of my favorite blog links and can’t even imagine how that happened without someone physically deleting them! I’ll get them fixed later.

    The Donna Drama never ends, does it? I shouldn’t be surprised but…yeah, I am. Over and over again.

    Like the new blog! You should be writing for the big bucks, kiddo. You really are THAT good.


  8. avatar
    Just Me says:

    I had never heard of the “Art of Possibility” group mentioned here today before i read this post. And frankly I have heard ALOT of people use this phrase professionally and for arts and crafts for many many years. I admire the work this group is doing. But I don’t think that the phrase would have been intentionally ripped off in this case. Though it might, just don’t know. This phrase art of possibility has been used for ages over here so i don’t understand how it can suddenly be locked down by one group when it seems like a common analogy or phrase and not a buisness name. It was just so common for so long. ::Shrug::

    I’m curious is the art and typography used on the purse an exact duplication of the “Art of Possiblity”‘s group logo? If not, i really don’t think this is an intentional abuse. I appriciate the neutrality and kindness with which the Art of Possibility lady is handling the situation. Its nice to see.

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