Rip, Curl, Then Rip Off: Johnny Cupcakes vs. Billabong

1200081890Johnny Earle, owner and founder of Newbury Street’s Johnny Cupcakes boutique, has a few not-so-sweet words for surf-wear empire Billabong. As Earle reports on his blog, Billabong’s latest collection of t-shirts features a near-replica of one he designed and sold way back in 2005.

It’s too precise to be called coincidental, says Earle, pointing out that the only difference in the new “Bling-Bling” tee is the Billabong wave logo in the place of Earle’s cupcake (Bostonista, who has yet to meet a cupcake she didn’t like, prefers Johnny’s version).

“I thought for some weird reason Billabong had bought a heap of my shirts and were selling it, until I closely looked and saw their logo attached on my design,” Earle said when we talked to him this afternoon.

Asked if he would take action, Earle said, “You bet I will!”

Billabong sells its tee for $30; a Cupcakes original cost about the same in 2005. Repeated calls to Billabong reps went unreturned.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Earle said. “Huge corporations live off of scooping up smaller companies’ ideas. It’s just funny how lazy they were. It’s not a parody, it’s not inspired by me, it’s my brand’s design almost exactly copied.”

Diana Levine contributed to this report.