Last May, Melissa Lay realized her dream as a small business owner, when she founded her own clothing company -- a one-of-a-kind T-shirt maker called SandiLake -- so that she could work and be at home with her two small children.
Selling matching tees for children and adults on Etsy and her own website, each of the shirts is hand-printed in Lay’s garage.
But the Oregon resident was in for a shock when a friend texted her a photo of a Target tank top that was nearly identical to one of her top-selling designs: a loose, black shirt with the word “#Merica” embedded within a rough sketch of the American flag.
“[I was] blown away,” Lay told local television station KATU, “because as a small business owner [and] a mom, I work so hard on every shirt I sell.” The differences between the two shirts are negligible -- except that the Target shirt, at $12.99, is nearly half the price of Lay’s $25 tank.
Lay subsequently phoned Target, whereupon she was told to file a formal complaint. Regarding legal action, Lay -- who does not have a copyright for the design -- said, "I would have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to fix this, and then I still might lose. So I don't know what I'll do."
A Target spokesperson said that the company is looking into the matter. "Target has a deep appreciation for great design and it has always been our policy to respect the intellectual property rights of others,” the company told Entrepreneur. “We are aware of this issue and are in the process of reaching out to the designer."