Proplamp vs Krusning: coming up with ‘the same thing’ at the same time?

The Proplamp “Crumplelamp” (top left) has been marketed by a design duo in the Netherlands since the beginning of 2014. The lamp comes in various sizes and the price ranges from € 299 to € 1,199. Ikea has been selling the Krusning lamp (bottom left) since the end of 2014. The Krusning costs only € 14.95, but you do have to “crumple it up” yourself.

The Proplamp designers applied to the courts: the IKEA lamp should be prohibited, as a slavish imitation of the Proplamp. They did not invoke copyright, to prevent the risk of ending up with an order for costs in the unlikely event of losing the IP case.

The ruling emphasises that the bar for a successful claim of slavish imitation is high: the starting point is that everyone must be free to create. Imitation is permissible and only becomes unlawful if it is foreseeable that the public may be confused and the imitating competitor does not do everything it reasonably can to prevent this confusion. IKEA would have to have known about the Proplamp when it created the Krusning, according to the District Court of Amsterdam. But the design duo could not prove that it did. Since there are other comparable products on the market (the Umfeld), coincidence cannot be ruled out. With that, the curtain has fallen for the makers of the Proplamp. If conscious borrowing really becomes the norm (and there is much debate about that), then you really need to have what it takes to tackle a product that is very similar, on the grounds of slavish imitation.

In the IP field, IKEA was also in the spotlight last month. The new bag from fashion brand Balenciaga has a lot in common with the iconic blue IKEA bag. The difference in price? A mere € 2,000. The response from IKEA/ Acne: hitching on to it with full media exposure into the bargain. Smart!

Stephanie Reinders Folmer, intellectual property section


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