Posts tagged ‘trade mark’


Ikea tries to shut down its biggest fan site, showing us how the company thinks within

17.06.2014

In an age of social media, you would think it was the most stupid thing to try to shut down the biggest online community you have.
   Ikea has done just that, on IP grounds, against Ikea Hackers, by getting their legal department to send Jules Yap, its founder, a cease-and-desist letter after her site had been going for eight years. In that time she had sent customers to Ikea, after they were inspired by the new ideas her community had on doing new things with Ikea furniture.
   There are arguments that Ikea could have been liable for any injuries sustained from the “hacks”, but that’s daft. Are we really that litigious as a society, prepared to blame someone for something we ourselves freely chose to do? Ikea has instructions on how to build their furniture, and it’s your own choice if you are prepared to go against them.
   And eight years is an awfully long time to bring a case against someone for trade mark usage, rendering this claim particularly weak.
   There are other Ikea-hacking websites and Facebook pages as well—so it’s even dumber that Ikea would go after one with such a huge community, a website that has an Alexa ranking currently in the 20,000s (in lay terms: it has a huge audience, potentially bigger than that of Ikea’s corporate site itself in Jules’s country, Malaysia).
   Jules says that she has to take down the ads as part of her settlement for being able to retain the site—ads that simply paid for her hosting, which she might not be able to afford to do any more. (Some fans have offered to host for free or provide new domain names.)
   The Ikea Hackers logo doesn’t look remotely like the Ikea one, which would readily imply there was no endorsement by the Swedish company.
   Therefore, Ikea’s statement, on its Facebook, holds very little water.

Vi Àr glada för det engagemang som finns för IKEA och att det finns communities runt om i vÀrlden som Àlskar vÄra produkter lika mycket som vi gör.
   Vi kĂ€nner ett stort ansvar mot vĂ„ra kunder och att de alltid kan lita pĂ„ IKEA. Det Ă€r viktigt för oss att vĂ€rna om hur IKEA namnet och varumĂ€rket anvĂ€nds för att kunna behĂ„lla trovĂ€rdigheten i varumĂ€rket. Vi vill inte skapa förvirring för vĂ„ra kunder om nĂ€r IKEA stĂ„r bakom och nĂ€r vi inte gör det. NĂ€r andra företag anvĂ€nder IKEA namnet i kommersiellt syfte, skapar det förvirring och rĂ€ttigheter gĂ„r förlorade.
   DĂ€rför har Inter IKEA Systems, som Ă€ger rĂ€ttigheterna till IKEA varumĂ€rket, kommit överens med IKEA Hackers om att siten frĂ„n slutet av juni 2014 fortsĂ€tter som en fan-baserad blog utan kommersiella inslag.

Essentially, it uses the standard arguments of confusion, safeguarding its trade mark, and—the Google translation follows—‘When other companies use the IKEA name for commercial purposes, it creates confusion and rights are lost.’
   This can be fought, but Jules elected not to, and her lawyer advised against it. It’s a pity, because I don’t think she received the best advice.
   On Ikea’s Swedish Facebook page, some are on the attack. I wrote:

I would hardly call her activity ‘commercial’ in that the ads merely paid for her web hosting. I doubt very much Jules profited. But I will tell you who did: Ikea. She introduced customers to you.
   While your actions are not unprecedented, it seems to fly in the face of how one builds the social aspects of a modern brand.
   The negative PR you have received from this far outweighs the brand equity she had helped you build. It was a short-sighted decision on the part of your legal department and has sullied the Ikea brand in my mind.

   This won’t blow over. It’s not like politics where people are disinterested enough for all but the most impassioned to retain memory of a misdeed. (For example, does Oravida still mean anything to anyone out there?) Ikea is a strong brand, and mud sticks to them. Some years ago, I met a woman who still had a NestlĂ© boycott in place after the company’s milk powder incidents of the 1960s. And all of a sudden, Ikea’s alleged tax fraud (see here for the SVT article, in Swedish) or the airbrushing of women out of its Saudi Arabian catalogue come to mind. They’re things most people forget, because they go against the generally positive image of an organization or Ingvar Kamprad himself, until there’s some misstep from within that shows that things are rotten in Denmark—or in Sweden, as the case is here. Or is it the Netherlands, where its company registration is?
   Brands are, in particular, fragile. I have maintained for over a decade that brand management is increasingly in the hands of the audience, not the company behind it—something underpinning my most recent academic paper for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing. We all know that there must be as much consistency between the views of the brand held by the organization and those held by the public. The greater the chasm, the weaker the brand equity. Here, Ikea is confirming the worst of its behaviour done in the name of its brand, all for the sake of some euros (I won’t say kronor here)—meaning the consistent messages are not in clever Swedish design, but between what it’s doing in this case and what it allegedly does in Liechtenstein.
   And since the foundation that controls Ikea is technically not for profit, then it’s a bit rich for this company—accused of tax avoidance by calling itself a charity—to be calling Jules’s activities ‘commercial’. It is hypocritical, especially when you bear this in mind:

In 2004, the last year that the INGKA Holding group filed accounts, the company reported profits of €1.4 billion on sales of €12.8 billion, a margin of nearly 11 percent. Because INGKA Holding is owned by the nonprofit INGKA Foundation, none of this profit is taxed. The foundation’s nonprofit status also means that the Kamprad family cannot reap these profits directly, but the Kamprads do collect a portion of IKEA sales profits through the franchising relationship between INGKA Holding and Inter IKEA Systems.

   The tax haven secret trust the companies use is legal, says Ikea, which is why it pays 3·5 per cent tax. I have little doubt that the complex structure takes advantage of laws without breaking them, and Kamprad was famous for departing Sweden for Switzerland because of his home country’s high taxes. The cease-and-desist letter probably is legal, too. And they show you what mentality must exist within the organization: forget the Swedishness and the charitable aspects, it’s all about the euros.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, Sweden | No Comments »


Intellectual property doesn’t deserve a black mark, but some powers-that-be do

22.11.2011

After being interviewed about the outcome of the ‘Wellywood’ sign vote yesterday (a summary of what I told Newstalk ZB can be found on my Facebook fan page) I was reminded about how a few Wellingtonians, who supported my quest to stop the sign in 2010 and 2011, were not that thrilled that I used intellectual property law as my technique.
   Those following this in 2010 and 2011 might remember that I was the person who called up the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Hollywood Sign Trust, and was, last year, the mayoral candidate most active in trying to stop Wellington Airport from erecting the sign at the Miramar cutting. This year, with no local election to be concerned about, I remained active, more so upon seeing just how arrogant the Airport’s “leadership” was, before it flip-flopped again by saying that it should consult with the public (the same public it called insignificant weeks before).
   And yet, months later, I was also miffed about the Copyright Act amendments and the introduction of the “three strikes” law, one which the Government seems to be uncertain about as it supports it at home, and opposes it at the United Nations.
   This is not a populist about-turn on my part. I have a view of intellectual property which was refined in part by my time at law school, where I sat the first IP paper offered formally by Victoria University, and my work for TypeRight, the advocacy organization, which wound up winning an award from Publish magazine in the US. This experience leaned toward copyright, more than trade mark and patent, though I secured reasonable experience in TMs working in brand consulting and acting as an expert witness. Through that exposure, I began with the classical argument that the protection of authors, and rewarding them, are good things. No protection, no incentive.
   But, this must be balanced by the rule of law. What we had before the latest amendments to the Copyright Act already worked. Copyright owners could, indeed, pursue infringers, and a plaintiff and a defendant could fairly be represented in a tribunal. It would be up to the copyright owner to front up with a statement of claim, and they had better be ready with sufficient proof to make the case air-tight—just as any other plaintiff in a New Zealand court would require. That seems fair. I have relied on American law often when it came to pursuing piracy of our articles, and, again, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act there worked well in giving both sides a fair hearing without the presumption of guilt.
   As argued in some depth in 2009, and again in 2011, the three-strikes law—which, I might note, the PM was against before he was for, as was the Hon Peter Dunne MP—puts the power firmly in the hands of the copyright owner, so that a defendant has to discharge the presumption of guilt. A copyright owner, as we have learned, can get an ISP to do its dirty work in New Zealand, sending out infringement notices to its customers. Whatever I learned in that IP class at uni, I had always believed the law would take place in a fair forum, and that the common-law presumption of innocence would always stand. What is happening here runs counter to that idea.
   To be fair and balanced here, I should note that the law was proposed under Labour, and received the support of Labour when argued in Parliament, which makes me wonder whether the duty of being Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was fulfilled properly during the debates.
   Such laws, unfortunately, do the idea of copyright no credit. They have sullied the good work that copyright has done in most of our recent history by protecting those who sought it, and deserved it. I think of those who were in the typeface design business with me, who opted to protect their works. Some designers only make a few dozen dollars per annum from a font that might have taken them six weeks to produce. Typically, $300 is a figure I hear for a design that doesn’t make the big time—and the majority do not, just like in music.
   European Commission VP for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, told the Forum d’Avignon on November 19 a similar story: ’97·5 pe rcent of one of the biggest collecting society’s members in Europe receive less than 
 €1,000 a month for their copyright works.’
   As reported in The Register, ‘Kroes said, copyright as it now stands is failing to deliver the economic rewards that are supposed to be its aim. At the same time, “citizens increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what is behind it. Many see the current system as a tool to punish and withhold, not a tool to recognize and reward.”’
   The Register concludes:

In the context of the public’s increasing resistance to punitive measures such as America’s SOPA, New Zealand’s three-strikes disconnection notice regime, the acrimonious “iiTrial” in Australia (backed by the MPAA via its local sockpuppet AFACT), it’s also interesting to note that Kroes mentions the intermediary business just once in her speech – since, at least to The Register, it seems that most of the public’s hatred of copyright appears to stem from how the intermediaries approach it.

   The distinction needs to be drawn. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. What we should be weary of are not just the intermediaries as The Register notes, but some of the parties who inspire, lobby and even offer to draft these laws. It seems those parties are often those who care little for the thoughts of the community, whether it be an Airport CEO, or politicians who are so inept at understanding their subject they confuse fact with fiction.
   While I will not be drawn on who will get my electorate and party votes for this General Election, the behaviour of some of the powers-that-be seem to support those who claim that we no longer live in democracies in the occident, but plutocracies.

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Posted in business, culture, design, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


A whinge about whinging

19.06.2011

I’ve seen this lament on a few more places now: why bother having a comment box?
   We’ve just had someone tell us at Lucire that there is no such person as Princess Catherine. Well done. We all know that technically there is no such person, if one is referring to the wife of Prince William, but was it worth a comment, when common usage overrides the technical aspects of heraldry for publications like ours? (How often did anyone see the Queen Mother referred to as the Princess Albert?) Am I meant to be impressed that someone possesses everyday knowledge, were we expected to succumb to the whinge, or does this simply highlight the writer’s intolerance?
   If in communicating, you create a problem, then you haven’t properly communicated. And in the communication business, Princess William could create a problem.
   Was the writer not alive when the European media insisted upon Lady Di right up until her death, or, for that matter, unaware that Princess Di and Princess Diana became the everyday convention, even though both were technically incorrect? Or did (s)he approach every medium to inform them of Princess Charles?
   A fellow New Zealander ignored the point of one post on this blog to tell me that it’s not Reuter, but Reuters. Funny, considering he and I are roughly the same age, and would have grown up in an age when ‘NZPA/Reuter’ was commonly in our newspapers (and in those days when people read daily dead trees, the form Reuter became conventional in New Zealand). Reuters, as we know it today, long after it formalized its company name, still made products such as Reuter Textline into the 1990s—and given that this person is also in the media, you’d expect he’d know. (Even the Reuter Textline terminals said they were Reuter Textline.)
   The appending of the s to establishments has frequently been a bugbear. Not enough to write to people about (unless one is the Apostrophe Protection Society), but the disappearance of the apostrophe in Harrod’s, Selfridge’s and Debenham’s, and the confusion of the shops that were branded Woolworth in some countries and Woolworths in others, surely would lead to a 2011 where any form is acceptable depending on the experiences of the writer and personal preference. The exception to this, of course, would be a direct citation about the company itself, where presumably one would follow whatever was on the Companies’ Register, in which case the information service would be Thomson Reuters Corp.
   I used to think I was a bit of a smart-arse, but I don’t go around American blogs telling them they misspelled defence (though Americans have quite publicly complained to me in their role as self-appointed guardians of the language), telling people that Prince Harry does not exist, or write to the Financial Times on the continued misuse of the word billion. (Note: milliardaire is very hard to say.)
   I have pet peeves, but I deal with them in my own little world and in my own publications. I make fun of some mistakes out of humour (Font Police surely is evidence), and I will get on my high horse about house styles and spelling when either happens to be the topic. If I’m responding to an article or a blog post, then isn’t it more productive, in furthering knowledge, to address the point, presume reasonable intelligence on the other party’s behalf (till proved otherwise), and not get stuck on minutiĂŠ? Errare est humanum, after all, and no, I never studied Latin.

Incidentally, checking our visitor stats, Princess Catherine is the most searched-for way to refer to the former Kate Middleton after April 29; Duchess of Cambridge is second; and no one to date has searched for Princess William among the 1·1 million monthly pageviews, just as no one searched for Princess Charles to get to stories on our websites in the 1990s. So call all of us common. As long as do not refer to the Queen and Prince Philip as ‘Their Majesties’, which the 43rd American president did, I think we should be given a pass.

BMW 650i Cabriolet launch

Over this last week, the Lucire-mobile has been the BMW 650i Cabriolet, a car I had the honour of seeing at the same time as four press colleagues at its New Zealand launch in March. (LaQuisha Redfern has asked me to note that there is sufficient headroom for 6 ft 5 in drag queens.) Cabriolets do turn heads, even in winter, and I thank whomever it was for writing a note that made me smile and leaving it under a windscreen wiper: ‘Nice ride, Jack.’
   The car buff question here is: would I have received the same note in the previous-generation 6-series?

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, humour, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, UK, USA | 3 Comments »


Wellington Airport ïŹ‚ip-ïŹ‚ops again, but pennies drop more quickly in Queensland

01.06.2011

Today, those of us on the anti-‘Wellywood’ sign page got some welcome news: that Wellington Airport would reconsider.
   But, I had to point out, this is again dĂ©jĂ  vu. Last time, the Airport flip-flopped as well, and said it would consult the public.
   Given that the resource consent for ‘Wellywood’ was for nine smaller signs, any alternative proposed by the public that didn’t fit the specification would have needed a new consent. In the latest round of interviews, I called the process a sham.
   We’ve had so many mixed messages from Steve Fitzgerald of Wellington Airport and his colleagues that it’s hard to take anything seriously.
   March 10, 2010: we will do the sign. A few weeks later: we won’t do the sign and we’ll consult. By September: we will still do the sign. May 21, 2011: we will do the sign. May 24, 2011: this is part of branding Wellington. May 25: it’s just some airport land—it’s not as if we’re branding Wellington. June 1: we won’t do the sign and we’ll consult. And round we go again.
   Those opposing the sign were dubbed ‘small’ and an ‘element’, but now we’re the ‘community’. Sure beats being called ‘whingers’, which we were labelled last year.
   This is the sort of unimaginative management that is driving this country into the water.
   The public is against the sign. The film industry, from representatives I have heard from, is against the sign. The Mayor and the majority of the council are against the sign. Hollywood, as the trade mark and copyright owner of the original, is against the sign. The Prime Minister indicated he disliked the sign. The law is against the sign.
   You’d think that with such overwhelming evidence, Wellington Airport would have seen the light a long, long time ago, especially, as I said on Back Benches last week, yet another party owns the ‘Wellywood’ trade mark.
   Ignoring the lot suggests that Wellington Airport believes it is above the law. And that the councillors who elected to support the Airport’s position do not believe in upholding the laws of New Zealand.
   If you begin counting from March 10, 2010 to June 1, 2011, then the Airport has taken 448 days (and 26,000 Facebook users) for the penny to drop. If you look at the period between May 21 to June 1, then that’s still a shameful 11 days.
   Contrast this to another Facebook movement that happened in Australia today: the protest against posters for a safe-sex campaign being removed because of a few dozen complaints from a so-called Christian group, ACL.
   APN’s Adshel unit chose to remove the posters but, by 4 p.m. AEST, Adshel’s Australian CEO made a statement to say they would be reinstated.
   It’s a shame to note that Adshel would cave in to very similarly worded, homophobic complaints, while its rival, Goa, honoured its contract with its client, the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, a non-profit organization.
   The irony is that ACL has brought the campaign, which features a real-life couple, far greater prominence than it otherwise would have had.
   While Adshel didn’t apologize, merely saying it had been duped, it’s still a credit to Adshel CEO Steve McCarthy that the right course of action was taken given a 30,000-plus-strong movement at the time of his announcement. It wasn’t the perfect PR statement, but at least it didn’t attack campaigners and the Australian public—not to mention a few of us from overseas—as a small element or a minority.
   Does this other Aussie Steve have egg on his face? Of course he does. But he made the right call and he can, at least, move forward and not become Queensland’s most hated man. (Reading the comments, a Kiwi-born premier still holds that distinction.)
   One day for the penny to drop, versus 11. And a good deal of that 11 was spent alienating the people of Wellington. Not exactly paving the way for a great consultative process.

Above is the Australian ad. Complaints included that it looked like ‘foreplay’. My, my, it shows what is on the minds of certain people.
   If advertising featuring a couple might “turn people gay”, then, with all the “straight propaganda” out there, there wouldn’t be any gay people in the world.
   If we’re actually concerned about sexualized images out there, as the ACL claims, there is far more nudity in “straight advertising” to worry folk.
   If an eight-year-old who sees this ad understands sexuality, then that’s a bloody dirty eight-year-old. When I was eight, not only did I not know what sex was, but all I would have seen in this ad are two blokes. Now move on and let me play with my Matchbox cars.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington | 2 Comments »


The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done

10.03.2010

That was a very interesting 30 hours. I found out about the ‘Wellywood’ sign yesterday afternoon, through Twitter, and Tweeted to say I hated it. Little did I know then that there was a huge Facebook group—6,000 strong at the time of writing—where Wellingtonians were making their voices known.
   And when I got there to Facebook, I was inspired.
   While my opponents were still talking hot air, I decided to act for the good of the city. I was inspired by one comment on the larger anti-sign Facebook group, which asked: surely someone holds the copyright?
   First stop: the Hollywood Sign Trust. If anyone knew who owned the sign, it would be them.
   I received a very nice reply from Betsy Isroelit of the Trust at what must have been very early hours in California, to say that she had referred it to the correct parties.
   By the time I got up today, I had an email waiting from Global Icons, LLC, which, with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, owns the original Hollywood sign’s intellectual property. Global Icons, from what I understand, looks after this side of things for the Chamber. And would I please send them the artist’s impression of what the sign would look like?
   And that kicked it off. I mentioned this to Rachel Morton at TV3 news before I was interviewed, and she took the initiative by contacting the CEO of the Chamber for comment immediately. It turns out that he did not know that the matter was already brewing in California, but he does now. Rachel tells me that he then put the Chamber’s lawyers on to the case. That’s two for us, nil for Mayor Prendergast and the airport.
   All it took was the creativity of Wellingtonians to show something I have said from day one.
   You know, creativity? The thing that this sign does not represent, and makes fun of?
   And all it took were everyday Wellingtonians collaborating. I was inspired by the person on the Facebook group. And if I hadn’t approached the Trust and Global Icons, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to Rachel. And if Rachel hadn’t called the CEO, Global Icons would probably be going it alone. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, because the credit is, really, everyone’s. The result should hopefully be that this horrible sign does not go up because people were prepared to act—whether by making their voice known on Facebook, or making some phone calls.
   People power, not corporates, not Ă©lites, gets things done. And that includes this year’s mayoral election.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »