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Ellison/Sizzix Patent Litigation Update

In a move likely in the works for months, Stampin’ Up has announced that they are discontinuing the Sizzix Big Shot and also are replacing Sizzix as the manufacturer for their dies. Stampin’ Up’s new dies will be a slightly different die style than the previous ones. As part of the transition to a new die manufacturer, Stampin’ Up is discontinuing (they call it “retiring”) a large number of die designs from their catalog The existing designs that are being retained in the product line will transition to the new style of die once existing inventory of the old Sizzix-manufactured die style is sold out.

In early April, Ellison laid off a significant number of staff in their U.S. office in Lake Forest, California. The layoffs, reportedly as high as 20% of the U.S. staff, included at least some of the company’s U.S.-based in-house project designers. Several of Ellison’s graphic designers also departed the company around that time, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Ellison lawsuits

Against the backdrop of those events, four of the patent lawsuits initiated by Ellison in defense of its die patent have also continued throughout April. (To learn more about the background on these lawsuits and the patent they are alleging infringement of, click here.)

Court proceedings have been quiet in Ellison’s case against Stephanie Barnard since early March when a Special Master was appointed by the judge to assist in managing the case. The parties have entered the time-consuming (and expensive) period of litigation involving discovery and other out-of-court preparation for an eventual court trial scheduled for September 2020.

April has been taken up by relatively routine matters in the case between Ellison and Hero Arts. The two companies jointly requested a protective order from the judge to govern the handling of confidential information during the case. That order was granted on April 24th. The two sides have also agreed with the court to a schedule for the case that will lead to a trial in October 2020.

Heartfelt Creations filed a Motion to Dismiss Ellison’s case against them on April 24th. The filing claims that Ellison was too vague in their original lawsuit filing, failing to meet a sufficient burden of proof for a claim of infringement because they never pointed to a specific product of Heartfelt’s that allegedly infringes under the ‘325 patent standard. Heartfelt is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed as a result.

Avery Elle was responsible for the most notable activity in any of Ellison’s ongoing lawsuits in April. On April 11th, Avery Elle’s lawyers filed a Motion for Sanctions against both Ellison and their lawyers. The motion accuses Ellison of filing a frivolous lawsuit to harass Avery Elle and failing to do a proper investigation before filing. Avery Elle claims that their dies do not infringe the ‘325 patent because 32% of their dies’ flat border extends into the center and the ‘325 patent describes dies with “none” of the border extending into the center.

The company went a step further in its Motion for Sanctions, however, by claiming that prior art from Spellbinders (a 2011 video and an internet archive of their website)  and Quickutz (a 2007 circle die) makes the patent itself invalid. Avery Elle also claims that Ellison should have been aware of this art, and concludes, “Ellison and its Attorneys either failed to perform a basic pre-filing investigation or they knowingly brought an objectively baseless lawsuit.”

As a result of the claims in its motion, Avery Elle is asking for the court to sanction Ellison and its attorneys by awarding attorney’s fees and other costs to them to compensate them for what they call an action that was “frivolous and filed to harass.” Attorney’s fees being awarded to a successful defendant is not the normal outcome in patent litigation. It’s only done when the court rules there has been some egregious behavior by the plaintiff in the course of the suit. (Coincidentally, the industry’s previous die patent litigation ended this way, with Spellbinders ordered to pay attorney’s fees to Quickutz.)

Ellison filed its response to the Motion for Sanctions on April 29th. To defend their lawsuit, they presented some interpretations of both the word “none” and the first claim in the patent to the court.

The original patent application demonstrated the die construction with “none” of the cutting edge extending into the center of the die with this art:

 

325 Patent Illustration - figure 4

However, Ellison (via an affidavit from ‘325 inventor Kevin Corcoran) now claims that the word “none” encompasses a lip inside the die’s vertical surface because that lip is technically part of the blade. They used this art to demonstrate their claim:

Ellison die lip blade

They also made a second argument, however, that could render that one moot. They claim the “none” description of the die lip is part of a “preamble” and not actually a technical requirement of the patent. In essence, they are trying to divorce it from the method claim of aligning a die with a stamp to cut it out. Were that argument to be successfully defended, Ellison would be the only company with the legal right to manufacture and sell open centered chemically etched dies that match stamps – regardless of whether there is an edge extending into the center or not – in the U.S.

Oral arguments are scheduled about the motion on May 13th in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California before Judge Marilyn Huff.

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Ellison Sues 5 Companies, Alleging Patent Infringement

Ellison Educational Equipment, the parent company of Sizzix brand, has sued five companies over the past few months alleging infringement of a die technology patent that they own. Since November 2018, the company has sued Prima Marketing, Stephanie Barnard (and her The Stamps of Life company), Hero Arts, Avery Elle, and Heartfelt Creations.

Ellison logo banner

The ‘325 Patent

The patent at issue in the lawsuits filed by Ellison is No. 9,079,325 (referred to here and in court filings as the ‘325 patent for the sake of brevity). The first paperwork related to the application for this patent was filed on July 15th, 2011. The formal patent application is dated July 26th, 2012. The patent was ultimately granted on July 14th, 2015.

The ‘325 patent has three elements, or “claims” in patent law terminology. All of these claims relate to the construction and use of chemically etched metal dies. These are the dies commonly called “thin metal dies” by crafters.

Claim One: The first element of this claim is the actual structure of the die. The patent claims ownership of the technology of manufacturing dies with an open center – as virtually all thin metal dies manufactured today are – that do not have a lip extending past the cutting edge into the center of the die.

A method for cutting out, by means of a first die, a shape that is printed on a sheet material, wherein the die includes an inside opening that corresponds to the shape to be cut from the sheet material, a flat outside border having first and opposite faces that surround said inside opening, and a cutting edge that projects from the first face of the flat outside border, such that said cutting edge surrounds the inside opening of said first die and corresponds exactly with the shape that is printed on the sheet material and none of the flat outside border of said die extends into the inside opening of said die

To put that description in graphic terms, it means a die with the profile below. (Graphic taken from the patent.)

325 Patent Illustration - figure 4

325 patent illustration - figure 6

Claim one goes even further though, taking ownership of the technique of using dies designed like this by aligning the die with a shape (such as a stamped image) on material (such as paper) and then putting the die and material through a die cut machine to cut the shape out.

said method comprising the steps of:

locating the shape printed on the sheet material to be cut therefrom;

placing the cutting edge which projects from the first face of the flat outside border of said first die directly against the sheet material, and looking through the inside opening of said first die so that the shape printed on the sheet material is located entirely within the inside opening of said first die and the cutting edge which projects from the first face of said flat outside border is automatically registered so as to surround the shape to be cut from the sheet material;

positioning said first die and the sheet material having the shape to be cut therefrom within a roller press; and

moving said first die and said sheet material through said roller press for causing a force to be applied to the opposite face of the flat outside border of said first die after said cutting edge has first been placed against the sheet material and said first die and said sheet material have been positioned in said roller press for pushing said cutting edge through said sheet material to cut the shape outwardly therefrom.

An illustration accompanying the patent shows a basic die cutting out a stamped shape:
325 patent illustration - figure 8

Claim Two: This claim stipulates that the die utilized in step one is created using a chemical etching process from a flat sheet of metal.

Claim Three: The last claim patents ownership of the invention of nested dies that are shaped like the image above.

forming at least a second die by chemically etching the flat piece of metal, such that the second die is nested within and spaced from the first die so as to lie at the inside opening of said first die, whereby the size of the inside opening of said first die is larger than said second die.
The patent’s illustrations show the nesting concept in product form:
325 patent illustration - figure 9

The Lawsuits

Ellison is being represented in the four California cases by lawyers from Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C. The case against Heartfelt Creations is located in Indiana and required hiring local counsel, so their representatives there are attorneys from Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. Various attorneys are representing the different defendants in the case, although several of the companies have called on creative industry intellectual property law specialist Tammy Browning-Smith as an assistant counsel in their cases.

Ellison has not responded to a request for comment on their pending litigation.

Stephanie Barnard Designs

The first suit was filed against Stephanie Barnard and Stephanie Barnard Designs (dba The Stamps of Life) on November 15th, 2018. In addition, the suit names as defendants unknown parties referred to as Does 1-10. Barnard has been a licensed product designer for Sizzix for nearly a decade, but the suit alleges she and her company are violating the ‘325 patent by producing products for The Stamps of Life that are covered by the patent that aren’t licensed from Ellison.

In an amended complaint filed against Barnard in December, the company also alleges Barnard and The Stamps of Life are violating the ‘325 patent by teaching the method described in Claim 1 of the patent in videos on the website:

In addition to directly infringing the ‘325 Patent, Defendants indirectly infringe on the ‘325 Patent by instructing, directing and/or requiring others, including customers, purchasers, users and developers, to perform some of the steps of the method claim, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents, of the ‘325 Patent, where all of the steps of the method claim is performed by either Defendants or its customers, purchasers, users and developers, or some combination thereof.

Barnard filed a response in mid-January, categorically denying Ellison’s claims of infringement. She also filed a counter-claim against Ellison, alleging the ‘325 patent is invalid and therefore cannot be enforced:

An actual case or controversy exists between Counterclaimant Barnard and Counterdefendant Ellison concerning validity of the ’325 Patent by virtue of Counterdefendant Ellison’s assertion of infringement of the patent.

The claims of the ’325 Patent are invalid on the ground that the purported invention, attempted to be patented therein, fails to meet the conditions of patentability specified in Title 35 of the United States Code, including, but not limited to, the conditions specified in 35 U.S.C. §§ 101, 102, 103, and/or 112 of the Code.

The sections of U.S. code cited refer to specific things regarding patents. Section 101 refers to patents only being granted to inventors of an item. Section 102 refers to prior art and when its presence does and doesn’t impede the ability to patent. Section 103 is very brief, simply precludes granting of patents ” if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains.” Section 112 deals with how an inventions specifications must be described in a patent. (Read the entire text the U.S. code on the U.S. PTO website here.)

A Special Master has been appointed in the case, and the parties are entering the discovery phase of the litigation. Trial is scheduled for September 2020.

Stephanie Barnard declined to comment to Scrapbook Update on the pending litigation.

Prima Marketing

Ellison filed two lawsuits on December 21st, 2018. One was against Prima Marketing. Like in the previous suit, the Prima Marketing suit also alleged infringement against who it called Does 1-10 that it said it was “ignorant to the true names and capacities of” but who it alleged “were and are a moving, active, conscious force behind the infringement of Ellison’s rights.”

Prima has never been known as a major die producer. Its only product line that incorporates dies in a major way is the Julie Nutting paper dolls line – and that is the product line cited repeatedly in Ellison’s court complaint against Prima. Other than the company-specific details, the complaint is generally a duplicate of the one against Stephanie Barnard.

One difference of note from the previous suit is that Prima was sent a cease & desist notice shortly before Ellison took the matter to court, a step that isn’t mentioned in the Stephanie Barnard filings. One of the demands in the cease & desist was that Prima “provide information on the manufacturer(s) or source(s)” of the allegedly infringing products. Another notable difference is that where no time frame is used in describing Ellison’s discovery of Stephanie Barnard’s alleged infringement, Ellison’s court filing in the Prima case says that “Ellison recently discovered that Prima is making or having their patterns made into chemically-etched dies that perform the method taught by the ’325 Patent.” [emphasis added]

in mid-February 2019, Prima filed a response to the suit taking much the same position as Stephanie Barnard and challenging the validity of the ‘325 patent based on the same sections of U.S. code. However, by mid-March, the parties reached a settlement and the case was quickly closed. Terms of the settlement are confidential and neither party has responded to a request from Scrapbook Update for comment. But the Julie Nutting dies (and all except a handful of their other ones) have disappeared from product listings on the Prima website, and the video cited in the suit as infringing has been removed from Prima’s YouTube as well. (The Julie Nutting and other Prima dies can still be found for sale on sites such as Scrapbook.com and Amazon.com, though.)

Prima has not responded to a request from Scrapbook Update to comment on its settlement with Ellison.

Hero Arts

The second lawsuit filed by Ellison on December 21st, 2018 was against Hero Arts. Like with the previous suits, it also names as defendants unknown persons or entities as Does 1-10. According to the filing, Hero Arts was sent a cease & desist order on December 12th, 2018. Like with the Prima c&d letter, Ellison demanded information on the source of the products from Hero Arts.

The Hero Arts complaint is largely the same as the Prima one filed the same day, with the exception of the company-specific information. It contains the same language about recent discovery of the alleged infringement. Ellison alleges infringement by dies Hero Arts make that match their stamp sets. But the filing also returns to a theme from the original Stephanie Barnard case by alleging the company is also infringing the method in the ‘325 patent through video content produced by their design team that is “teaching members of the public how to infringe the ’325 Patent”.

One section of the Ellison complaint against Hero Arts appears erroneous. It shows photos of two of Hero Arts’ layering stamps, under a caption that labels them as infringing products. There are no dies (the product covered by the patent) in the images. I wasn’t the only one confused by this, since Hero Arts’ response to that paragraph in their next filing says “it does not understand the allegations of that paragraph.”

Hero Arts filed their response to the suit on March 8th, 2019. Like the other defendants, they are challenging the validity of the ‘325 patent in a counterclaim against Ellison. But they are taking their defense further, asserting fourteen different affirmative defenses.

Under the proposed schedule, which hasn’t yet been made final, the case would be scheduled for trial on August 24th, 2020.

A representative for Hero Arts responded to Scrapbook Update with the following statement when asked for comment:

Hero Arts firmly believes this lawsuit is without merit.  Hero Arts does not infringe Sizzix’s patent nor does it encourage anyone else to do so. Hero Arts intends to fight this lawsuit and win.   But mostly, I am very disappointed in Sizzix’s decision to sue before even trying to resolve any issues they have in a respectful manner that involves talking as opposed to engaging in a blunt legal process, which is bad for everyone — Hero Arts, Sizzix, and the entire community.  We are fortunate that we all get to play, craft and create together in this wonderful industry, and I, as one of the members of this fine community, intend to do what I can to keep this misguided action from fracturing the cooperative, family spirt that has been the norm for so many years.

Avery Elle

Ellison filed suit against Avery Elle and unknown defendants named as Does 1-10 alleging infringement of the ‘325 patent on January 25th, 2019. Ellison says in court documents that it served Avery Elle a cease & desist notice on January 15th, 2019 – two days before the first education day at the Creativation trade show at which both companies exhibited.

The court filing against Avery Elle is again largely a duplicate of the previous filings, with the exception of the company specific material. Ellison alleges that Avery Elle violated the ‘325 patent both through its product sales and through indirect infringement by instructing others on how to do the method included in the patent. A video on the Avery Elle YouTube channel (that has since been removed) is cited as evidence of the indirect infringement.

Avery Elle filed a response on March 6th denying infringement of the ‘325 patent, challenging the patent’s validity, and also claiming several affirmative defenses. The same day, they also filed a counterclaim response asking for a judgement declaring the ‘325 patent invalid, as well as a judgement declaring their non-infringement of the patent.

Ellison responded to the counterclaim in a filing on March 27th, 2019 asserting the validity of the ‘325 patent and denying Avery Elle’s arguments of a right to relief.

No schedule has yet been set for trial or further hearings in the case.

Avery Elle’s representative has not supplied a comment to Scrapbook Update as of publication time of this article.

Heartfelt Creations

The most recent case filed by Ellison alleging infringement of the ‘325 patent was filed against Heartfelt Creations (and unknown defendants Does 1-10) on February 18th, 2019. It’s the first of the suits to target a company outside of California, where Ellison is headquartered. Ellison says Heartfelt Creations was served with a cease & desist letter on December 21st, 2018.

As with the previous lawsuits, Ellison is alleging that Heartfelt Creations is violating the ‘325 patent with both the products it sells and by instructing others on the method included in the ‘325 patent. The court filing cites content from the Heartfelt Creations YouTube channel as proof of the indirect infringement by teaching of the method.

Heartfelt Creations has until April 23rd to file its initial response in the case. The company, when asked for comment, confirmed the existence of the suit and told Scrapbook Update that “We are investigating their accusations and will be able to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”

The Analysis

Ellison is claiming ownership via the ‘325 patent of not just thin metal dies that have a completely open center (with no lip that extends past the cutting edge towards the middle), but also the technique of aligning them with a stamped image and running them through a die cut machine to cut out the image. The ‘325 patent also claims ownership of so-called “nested” dies created with the open centers.

Several designer/bloggers are called out by name in the various court filings as examples of infringement of the patent by teaching in videos this method described in the ‘325 patent. This will almost certainly have a chilling effect on the production of influencer content using stamps with matching dies until more clarity is brought to the legal situation regarding the ‘325 patent.

This isn’t the first time, of course, that craft industry companies have fought over technology that involved chemically etched dies with open centers. Spellbinders fought for several years to enforce a patent it had on chemically etched die technology against QuicKutz, ultimately losing both the case and the patent in 2013. The ghost of that case will almost certainly come back to haunt the new Ellison-filed cases, for multiple reasons.

One of the key reasons the Spellbinders patent fight will be relevant to the new cases will involve the question of prior art. Whether there is “prior art” of the concept is key to determining if something can be patented. Lack of prior art by other companies or individuals is typically seen by the patent office as proof an idea is unique. However, the market for thin metal dies with open centers was artificially chilled during the period of 2009 to 2013 while the Spellbinders case was ongoing. The vast majority of companies were holding out of the thin metal die market waiting to see if the patent suit was won or not. It was right in the middle of that period, in June 2012, that Ellison applied for the ‘325 patent. The final appeal in the Spellbinders case wasn’t over until the patent was declared invalid in the summer of 2013. Then the market started to be flooded with thin metal dies (including ones that matched stamps) in early 2014.

Perhaps the biggest question remaining to be answered about the Ellison suits – besides who will eventually prevail in them in court – is why Ellison seemingly suddenly chose now to go on the offense regarding the ‘325 patent that it has held since 2015. Two of the specific products cited in the court complaints were already on the market prior to the granting date of the ‘325 patent. So why did Ellison wait until late 2018 to begin enforcement instead of following the model utilized by My Sweet Petunia with their stamp platform patent to begin pursuing alleged infringement the moment the patent was approved? Ellison will have to answer that question eventually, since Hero Arts has raised it in its response as one of its affirmative defenses (the doctrine of laches).

Ellison also holds a patent similar to the ‘325 patent in China (Click here to view) that was granted in April 2016, after the U.S. patent had been granted. Online records show at least one suit filed early in 2018 in China in defense of that patent, months before the first U.S. suit was filed. Scrapbook Update has been unable to confirm the outcome of that case or the existence of any others.

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Scrapbook Layout | Beautiful Life – Notre Dame de Paris

As I mentioned in my last article, I have Paris on the brain lately…and part of the reason is that I’ve been busy creating scrapbook layouts from one of my Paris trips the past couple of years! This Paris scrapbook layout of Notre Dame showcases one of my favorite photos from my 2017 trip.

Paris scrapbook layout Notre Dame Cathedral using Tim Holtz products

It’s been awhile since I created a layout that had this many elements on it (and no stamps)! I really went to town digging in my Tim Holtz stash for this one, since so much of his stuff is perfect for a historic city like Paris.

[Disclosure: Some links in this article are advertiser links or affiliate links that pay this site a commission when a purchase is made after a click. The label maker was provided to me by Dymo to use in a previous sponsored post, but has since become a go to tool for me because I just really like using it.]

Supplies Used:

There were so many beautiful paper sheets in the Tim Holtz Memoranda pad that would have worked with this 5″ x 7″ photo! It was a hard decision but I ultimately chose this paper design because its yellow tones work with the yellow sunrise that I wanted to highlight in the photo. And the yellow is the perfect contrast to all the gray tones in the photo, making the photo pop off the background.

But this pale paper had a problem with the photo. The pale sky just kind of melted into the pale paper. A few strips of dark Tim Holtz “French” Design Tape under the top of the photo fixed that. And it had the added bonus of providing a way of “grounding” the photo on the background.

Paris Notre Dame layout construction

Next I started building my main embellishment area. I used some of the 6×6 paper designs from the Memoranda pad to create two tags. The small one is die cut and the large one is hand cut because I wanted an extremely specific size. I chose the reddish pink paper for the large tag to highlight the pink in the sky. The blue-gray tag highlights the cathedral itself.

A piece of design tape and a hole reinforcer on the large tag help tie the two tags together by moving the blue-gray color across to the pink tag.

Paris Notre Dame layout construction

The title is cut from yet another color, a shade of coral or blush pink that is also in the sky.

I didn’t want to layer yet another paper design element over the tags. So I typed my journaling on the computer and then printed it on inkjet vellum that could go invisibly over the large tag. A few Tim Holtz Adornaments finished the tag area by filling in some awkward white space.

Paris Notre Dame layout construction

Underneath the tags, I got out my trusty labelmaker to make a kind of sub-heading for the page with the cathedral’s name. Right above that I used a date stamp to put the date on it. (Tip: Check the year on the stamp when you use it! It says the year of the last layout I did. Ooops!)

The layout was a bit right side heavy, so I wanted to fill in some space in the bottom left corner. I used some of the Memoranda paper and a Tim Holtz Mixed Media die to create a texture layer in that corner. Then I put a Compass Coin on top of it! This added to the travel theme, created some more visual weight in the area, and also balanced the metal color of the elements on the tags.

Paris Notre Dame layout construction

This is a lot of elements but it was easier to assemble than it sounds. Because almost all of the elements in this layout are designed by Tim Holtz, they coordinate easily!

I have several more layouts in various stages of completion from this same trip…I can’t wait to share them with you all!

Notre Dame scrapbook layout

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Tool Sightings at Creativeworld: Sizzix FoldAway & Vaessen Stamp Easy

One of the most exciting things about going to an international show is that you see products that aren’t yet available or well known in your home market. Today we’re going to look at two great tools that I found during my tour of the Creativeworld show floor, the Sizzix FoldAway and the Vaessen Stamp Easy. Both are part of the hottest tools categories in the paper crafting industry, but are virtually unknown in the U.S.

[Disclosure: Messe Frankfurt and the Creativeworld show are a sponsor of Scrapbook Update.]

Vaessen Stamp Easy

The Vaessen Creative Stamp Easy will look familiar to anyone who has used a Tim Holtz Stamp Platform or a MISTI. But this entrant into the stamp press category has some interesting details. And these details set it apart from the two products currently available in the American market.  Continue Reading →

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Update | Taxes, Growth, Exclusives, Earnings, Events, and More!

Taxes. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) has proposed a bill that would affect how companies like Etsy, Lyft and AirBnB have to report their sellers’ income to the IRS. The bill would lower the income threshold that requires reporting by these entities to the IRS from $20,000 to $1,000 per year. It’s estimated by one tax policy expert at American University that the policy change, if implemented, will result in billions of dollars of new taxes being collected from sellers in the sharing economy who previously didn’t report their income.

Predictions. Market research firm Technavio has just made a new report available on the Global K-12 Arts and Crafts Material Market that predicts that market will grow at a CAGR of over 2% from now until 2021. To purchase the full report, visit the Technavio website.

Exclusives. Sizzix has announced that its Big Shot Jewelry Studio machine and an exclusive collection of jewelry dies and embossing folders are now available in a limited number of Michaels Stores. Only 30 stores – less than 3% of Michaels stores – are scheduled to stock this collection. To see the list of stores, visit the Sizzix website.

Bella Blvd Designer Day

Events. Registration is now open for Bella Blvd’s “Designer Day” event that will take place in Milwaukee on October 12th. The event will feature classes by Illustrated Faith designer Shanna Noel, Megan Hoeppner, Cynthea Sandoval, Jamie Pate, and Bella Blvd founder Stephanie Smokovich.

Deep Thoughts. Vicki O’Dell has a thought-provoking blog article up about the concept of being a “serial crafter”. I’ve long believed that most crafters tend to migrate through multiple crafts over the course of their lives. It’s an interesting thought to contemplate both from the standpoint of what it means for craft marketing, and what it means for the careers of professional crafters.

Security. In modern marketing, social media accounts are a vitally important company asset. They are also a major target for hackers, and a successful hack can cause at best a PR crisis or at worst the complete loss of social marketing assets. To combat this threat, Pinterest has just announced it is rolling out several new security features to help keep its users’ accounts secure. Turning on the new two factor authentication will require providing a code sent to your phone before you can log in. A list of logged-in devices on their account will also be available for Pinterest users, allowing them to disconnect ones they do not recognize. In addition, Pinterest will begin notifying users via email if a device not previously used on the account logs in.

Expansion. Hobby Lobby’s new store in the Lake Park area of Palm Beach has had its opening delayed until after the first of the year by what the company calls issues with getting permits. Another new store in progress, in Turlock, CA, is expected to open in September. A hiring event for 30-50 positions for the new store will be scheduled once an opening date is set.

Earnings. Amazon announced its 2nd quarter earnings today. Investor anticipation of the number temporarily made Jeff Bezos the world’s richest man, as Amazon’s stock rose enough to put Bezos over Bill Gates before a drop put Gates back on top again. The company reported a 25% increase in net sales versus the same period in 2016. Net income, however, was down significantly compared to 2016: $197 million versus $857 million last year.

The recent Prime Day event on July 11th, which will be reported with 3rd quarter sales, was described in a July 12th announcement as the biggest day ever in Amazon history. While sales were lead by offerings of Amazon’s signature devices like Fire and Kindle tablets, many other companies took part as well. Cricut was one craft company who offered Prime Day items. Even Amazon Handmade sellers took part, with Marcia Ricchiuti of Kahili Creations in Pahoa, Hawaii saying of the day that “So far, this year’s Prime Day sales increased 350 percent from last year’s. Getting the opportunity to offer lightning deals as a Handmade at Amazon artisan has been a boom to my business.”

Salutations. Happy Birthday to Jayne Burns of West Chester, Ohio. Jayne works at the cutting counter at the Jo-Ann Fabrics in Mason, OH – and celebrated her 95th birthday with her coworkers on Wednesday.

Peeks. A lot of crafters joke their homes look like a craft store…but what would your house actually look like if you owned one of the country’s biggest craft chains? You can check out this real estate listing for the answer – it’s the iconic Dallas home of Michaels Stores owner Sam Wyly. For a mere $12.5 million, you too could live in 7579 square feet of historic 1924 home on the Dallas Country Club golf course.

Jobs. The following industry jobs are listed as open and available:

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Update | Michaels, Studio Calico, Jared Leto, Sew Sweetness & More!

Dream Job. For many crafters, the dream job is to get a staff designer position where they get paid to craft to produce project samples all day. Find out from three of Cricut’s staff project designers how they got where they are, and what the job is really like in this fascinating behind the scenes article.

Sizzix Sew Sweetness Box Pouch

 

Designers. Sizzix used Quilt Market last month to announce the launch of their new collaboration with “Sew Sweetness” blogger Sara Lawson. Lawson’s three new Bigz L Dies, which retail for an MSRP of $29.99 each, will launch this month. The three new dies create a box pouch (pictured above), coin purse, or purse tabs. For more information, visit the Sizzix website.

Designers, part 2. Tammy Tutterow has announced a partnership with StencilGirl to make signature stencil designs. The initial release of 9 designs includes 7 two-step stencils that create layered designs such as flowers and plaid.

Exclusives. Joann Fabric & Crafts stores are getting four new exclusive kits to add to their large Project Life offerings. There’s “Lullaby”, a value kit available in boy and girl versions, as well as a recipe card value kit and matching album. There’s also an exclusive core kit called “Modern Wedding”.

Mixed Media. Designer Anna Dabrowska has announced that a selection of products from her popular Finnabair mixed media line made by Prima Marketing is hitting the shelves at Michaels Stores. The selection includes rust paste, patina paste, mixed media essentials, glitter, and more.

Trends. Slime is hot this summer and according to Adweek, the trend is paying off huge for craft brands like Michaels Stores and Elmers that have committed heavily to it. My own local Michaels store has an end cap right by the register area in the seasonal section containing gallon sized containers of Elmer’s along with all sorts of additives and other slime accessories.

Marketing. The wedding market is highly competitive, and content marketing continues to become more and more important. How important? Blogger network Aisle Society has just completed a successful $30,000 Kickstarter campaign to create an online tool to make submitting products and content to their more than 30 top wedding bloggers simpler and more streamlined for companies. The tool, called Matchology, will launch later this month, and cost $69.99 a year to use.

Equity. Kentucky-based Inked Brands – better known to most scrapbookers as Studio Calico – has raised $4 million in Series A equity funding. The equity was raised from BIP Capital, whose portfolio also includes companies like Tropical Smoothie, Huddle, and a variety of technology and health companies. Inked Brands was founded in 2007 by April Foster, and creates products for influencer brands such as Ali Edwards, A Beautiful Mess, Baby Boy Bakery, and Tom Kat Studio in addition to their in-house brand Studio Calico.

Equity, part 2. Digital education platform CreativeLive has raised $25 million in Series C funding from a combination of investors that include GSV Acceleration, Creative Artists Agency, Greylock Partners, Jared Leto, REV, Richard Branson, and Social Capital. (Now there’s a few names I thought this site would never have Google results for…) This raises to $58.8 million the company’s total funding. Part of the new funding will be used to extend CreativeLive more into the enterprise market.

Earnings. Michaels Stores will be reporting its first quarter earnings on Tuesday (June 6th) before market open, followed by a conference call at 8am central time. For information on how to take part in the conference call, visit the Michaels website.

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