Image courtesy of IKEAHackers.net
Success breeds a lot of things – contempt, imitation and devoted fans. Some of these can be pretty beneficial. After all, those devoted fans tend to buy products and extoll your virtue to others. But sometimes those fans take their devotion pretty far, and their attempts to honor the brand can cause sticky situations to arise. Such is the case with the site IKEAHackers.net.
The site, founded by a woman known as Jules Yap, takes the concept of affordable, modular furniture to the next level. On the site, Yap gives instructions for cleverly modifying and repurposing (hacking) IKEA products. This seems like the kind of expression of fandom that is popular in, say, the realms of sports or fiction. After all, if people can write fan-fiction stories about their favorite Harry Potter characters or create websites devoted to the minutiae of the Mets middle infield of the 1980s, why not make a site that celebrates the versatility of furniture?
Well, IKEA might not see it that way. The company has taken umbrage at the site and its usage of the IKEA name. Yap stated that she received a cease and desist letter from IKEA and now must decide how to proceed. IKEA contends that the fan site infringes on its trademark by misusing the company name. Still, the likelihood that a consumer would imagine that IKEAHackers.net is associated with IKEA seems low, so the grounds of the company’s claims are dubious at best.
Just when things seemed grim for Yap, she received word that IKEA was reconsidering its demands. It seems that the company may be realizing that the site is a powerful tool for their business. Just like all the Disney fans who post “Let It Go” parodies and homages on YouTube, generating buzz and excitement (and presumably sales) for the movie “Frozen,” the hacks on Yap’s site can certainly serve to fire up IKEA fans and convince them to spend money on extra items they can repurpose into these groovy hacks.
Stay tuned to see how this turns out, and if it is a signpost for the way companies will view online trademark and copyright violations in the future.