In the 1992 action movie Under Siege, Steven Seagal plays a kick-ass-type hero who must disable the terrorists he's trapped on a ship with. Reviewing the movie that year on SNL, comedian David Spade was not kind: "I liked this movie better the first time I saw it," he quipped, "when it was called Die Hard."
There is a fine line between advancing an idea into a valid evolution and simply knocking something off. Aggrieved parties can settle these matters in a courtroom, but for this project here, I would like to hear the opinions of you, the design community.
The project in question is Hong-Kong-based designer Mike Mak's Bookniture, currently up on Kickstarter. Before I say anything, have a look:
Yes, it essentially looks like one of Molo's Softseating units with the addition of a book cover. Let's look at the Molo product below:
Here's Mak's design:
By adding the book cover Mak has arguably altered the functionality in that his version is intended to be stored on a shelf.
But is attempting to stretch that context enough, in your minds, to distinguish the design? Is it enough in an IP lawyer's mind, or a judge's mind?
Also, look at the choice of font and appearance of the Bookniture:
That instantly made me think of this, and not just because the word "Field" is in both images:
Is it just me, or do you think one has influenced the other? Or do you think that coming from a design background, I'm oversensitive to font and color similarities, and that this is merely a coincidence?
What's not in question is that Bookniture will be funded: At press time it had reached $301,515 on a $50,000 goal with a month left to pledge.
The "homage card" cannot be played here, by the way. Mak doesn't mention Molo's name or any inspiration other than his own throughout the campaign.
Of course, the similarities have been brought up in the campaign's comments page. The most depressing ones are from people who have never heard of Molo. As far as sounding off on the debate, comments range from this:
I support this even if claims are made about it being a counterfeit.
Several features of Bookniture set it apart from other designs. And if no one ever dared to improve on pre-existing concepts - essentially creating new and different designs (remember, it's all in the details) - then design and innovation would stagnate.
looking at the molo system this stuff is total copy, intentional or not. I cant see them allowing it to happen with out a law suit and I really cant see you winning. I think i'll drop out of this one, think I would rather pay a bit more for a retail model then lose my money on the kickstart. Nice Idea, shame someone beat you to it.
Don't have an account? Join Now
Create a Core77 Account
Already have an account? Sign In
Please enter your email and we will send an email to reset your password.
I sure don't see anyone else's similar seating very easily available or at a price reasonable at all to the product offered. Perhaps those thinking their product should trump all later comers should try to adjust their quality and price to match what seems to be offered by this newcomer?
To add molo's voice to the discussion, please read the short history and insight into molo's softseating design below:
2001 - Stephanie Forsythe + Todd MacAllen first began to conceptualize and prototype their ideas of flexible honeycomb seating, walls, tables, lighting and rooms and publicly shared these ideas in three separate winning competition entries in 2003. Forsythe + MacAllen’s first honeycomb tissue paper experiments are in tandem with (yet independent of) Tokujin Yoshioka’s work with tissue paper honeycomb when Forsythe + MacAllen work in Japan from 2001 designing and building a museum. The history is well documented and credited through patents, winning competition entries, and the Museum of Modern Art.
2006 - molo's softseating fanning paper stool is commercially released
2007 - MoMA acquires molo’s paper softseating to their permanent collection (the product currently in question in this article)
2010 - MoMA acquires developed iterations of molo’s softwall to their permanent collection
molo has written about and represented storage for softseating "like a book on a shelf" since the design's release in 2006. As shelf storage is a primary perceived/cited factor distinguishing the two designs, we hope information/images available at www.molodesign.com/_/ov will help give further comparison of how little Bookniture differs from molo’s softseating. The cosmetic 'book spine' detail on the side of Bookniture only limits its functionality - it is unable to expand into a bench (as molo's softseating design can) and may only be opened with the spine facing inwards, concentrating all wear to the single outward facing side of the seat.
In terms of wear, the denser honeycomb and inset binding of molo’s paper softseating hold up to use better than Bookniture. With use over time, the top surface area of the paper honeycomb geometry crushes and softens into a visually interesting and comfortable natural patina. A functional ergonomic advantage to molo recessing the end panel (book cover binding) from the top the stool is that the hard end will not protrude as the seating ages. Recent copies of molo paper softseating all miss the importance of this detail, and the hardboard end panels will stick out (uncomfortably) as those stools crush and age. Notably, only molo shows the aging process of paper furniture in our customer facing literature.
We maintain that there is no excuse for plagiarism. Creating a high quality product (one that is constructed from durable paper with recycled content, has a denser honeycomb (more layers of paper) for extended lifespan, and is treated with a non-toxic fire retardant) increases our product's cost, but benefits the end user and the environment. All molo products are priced according to materials used and a fair wage for skilled labour on high quality products.
I have seen an identical tool, with even the same feature of the book cover. The only difference is in the lock that uses velcro instead of an elastic if I remember well. And I am sure that it was cheaper, I know the owner and I'm sure she didn't pay it more than 10 €uros.
Maybe it's the one I bought at flyingtiger, too. The cover had some ornamental pattern on it. And velcro is used to fix it as well.
I have a similiar stool, bought in the netherlands, sold by TIGER / Flying tiger in UK, NL...
Way to go Core77 for bringing attention to this. When bad companies get good press it perpetuates the knockoff industry. I appluad you for drawing attention to it and starting a discussion. If more companies got called out for making their version of someone else's designs, perhaps it would elevate the design world and push designers to do better. - Do your own thing! Don't ride on the coat tails of someone else's hard work.
Design is connecting missing dots, and build on the old one. For me this is totally fine. For your reference: MOLO Softseating is exactly the same as Charles Kaisin's K-bench. And it's worth mentioning that K-bench was first seen in 2002 and it should be earlier than the born of Softseating.