Plaintiff Nicole Dinardo designs and sells hand painted KitchenAid Mixers. Whirlpool, which owns KitchenAid, allegedly approached Dinardo regarding the possibility of designing custom KitchenAid mixers that Whirlpool would market and sell. According to the complaint, during the contract negotiations, Whirlpool was intimately involved with Dinardo's materials and processes, and reviewed prototypes, including leopard print and zebra print designs. Whirlpool allegedly offered Dinardo $20,000, but negotiations broke down after Dinardo wanted to share in the profit on each mixer. According to the complaint, Whirlpool is marketing a leopard print and zebra print design containing the distinctive look and feel of Dinardo's prototype designs, as seen here. Additionally, Dinardo is claiming that Whirlpool's logo and website, coupled with the designs above constitute copyright and trade dress infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition. A comparison of the logos and website can be seen here. Dinardo is seeking injunctive relief and damages against Whirlpool.

TIP: Companies that commission authors to create products or services on their behalf should have agreements in place before any prototypes are developed or work is performed.