RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — Richmond Animal Care and Control discovered imitation “Team Tommie” shirts being sold online, diverting money that would have gone towards their Tommie Fund to benefit animals in need.
The real shirts were introduced by RACC as a tribute to the dog who died after being set on fire in February.
“The money will go towards emergency care for animals in the city of Richmond," Robin Young, volunteer and foster coordinator for RACC, said. “Tommie’s story was an extreme story of animal cruelty and neglect, but we see that on a daily basis.”
Young said the fundraising campaign stopped about a week ago, which is when the knock-off shirts began to pop up online.
The T-shirts are nearly identical, even down to the RACC logo.
“To know there are knock-off shirts out there that are going to someone other than us is a little frustrating," Young said.
Unfortunately, RACC did not file any sort of copyright paperwork for the design.
Intellectual property lawyer Chris Gatewood, of Threshold Counsel PC, said registration is key.
“Just because you don’t register a copyright doesn’t mean you don’t own it," Gatewood said. “If you’re the creator of it, then you own your work. Registering lets you do something about it in court."
Gatewood says it isn’t technically illegal since there was nothing filed for the design, but incidents like this happen every day and it’s up to the consumer to do their homework.
“Go either straight to the organization or go with sellers and campaign runners that you know have some sort of actual affiliation or association, so that you know that the money goes where it is supposed to go," Gatewood said.
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