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There’s a brilliant trick map makers use to prevent plagiarism, called “trap streets.” They deliberately put an entirely fictional road, or even entire imaginary towns (“paper towns”), so that if someone lifts their work without permission it’s immediately identifiable to them. Something very similar is at the center of claims that a billion dollar phone case company has ripped off YouTuber JerryRigEverything.

Zack Nelson, the man behind the enormously popular JerryRigEverything YouTube channel, has a neat sideline in phone cases. Working with phone peripheral company, dbrand, he has released a series of phone and tablet cases under the label Teardown, that almost exactly mimic what the devices look like on the inside.

So it was with some surprise that Nelson and dbrand noticed Hong Kong-based Casetify selling something that looked similar. Very similar. But Casetify is a company that has sold over 25 million phone cases, and was described by the South China Morning Post as “one of the three biggest tech accessory brands in the world.” It seemed pretty unlikely that a business on that scale would be lifting his designs, right?

The two similar cases, with dbrand's on the left, Casetify's on the right.

Screenshot: YouTube

The thing is, Nelson’s dbrand Teardown range has its own equivalent of trap streets. While the cases were deliberately super-accurate (scans of hardware were done at 2400dpi), each design was also scattered with in-jokes and easter eggs.

For instance, dbrand was launched, like Skyrim, on 11.11.11, and as such, the number 11 was put around the word “SUB-SCRIBE” on an image of a ribbon. One of dbrand’s most popular case designs was “robot,” and the iPhone cases have “R0807″ printed on one of the metal strips. And the thing is, according to Nelson, so do Casetify’s. Nelson even claims that dbrand’s own logo appears on Casetify’s designs.

JerryRigEverything

Now, Kotaku has no access to either version, and while it’s worth noting that Casetify’s versions—branded as “Inside Out”—have suddenly disappeared from their website, we only have Nelson’s claims to go on here, and make no accusations ourselves. But if those versions shown in the JerryRigEverything really came from Casetify’s website, it certainly looks dubious.

This starts to look even worse when Nelson points out some specific details, like how one of the Casetify designs has an image of half a camera lens printed above where the real lens pokes through, which is most easily explained by someone taking the image of the case from the dbrand website and creating the case from that, rather than scanning the actual physical object.

The Casetify case, with its errant camera lens image.

Screenshot: YouTube

As a result, Nelson and dbrand have launched legal action against Casetify. Nelson’s rationale for taking this route is that “the biggest way to teach Casetify a lesson is with a multi-million dollar lawsuit.” However, he also states this isn’t about making himself money. He’s realistic about how unlikely actual financial gain is in cases like this, and says that should they win anything, the money would go toward his “The Rig” off-road wheelchair project.

We reached out to Casetify to ask if it could provide any insight into the situation, and received a reply pointing us to a statement it put out on X earlier today. It’s interestingly phrased.

Beginning by stating that they pride themselves in being a “bastion of originality,” the company goes on to say it is “currently investigating a copyright allegation against us.” The statement acknowledges that Casetify has “immediately removed the designs in question from all platforms.” And then it gets weird.

“We are also investigating a DDOS attack that disrupted our website when the allegation surfaced,” it continues, which whether intentionally or not, seems to suggest some manner of correlation. We’ve asked if the implication here was that the DDOS and allegations were from the same source and were told, “We cannot comment any further at this stage.”

After assuring that all customer data is safe (DDOS attacks don’t threaten customer data, of course), it then concludes, “Thanks for your patience and support during this challenging time.” Er, OK. Weird tone. Thoughts and prayers.

JerryRigEverything has promised to keep people up to date on its channel, and it’s hard not to want to grab some popcorn and subscribe. We’ve also reached out to Nelson for further comment.

 



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