Beijing Design Week confronts copying
in China with giant rubber duck

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Beijing Design Week confronts copying in China with giant rubber duck

News: the organisers of Beijing Design Week plan to emphasise problems with copyright in China by exhibiting an original version of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's giant Rubber Duck, which was duplicated around the country when it recently appeared in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour.

At a press conference announcing that Florentijn Hofman's ten-metre-high inflatable duck will appear at Beijing Design Week 2013, the event's organising committee highlighted the proliferation of unsolicited copies that emerged in several Chinese cities including Tianjin and Wuhan last month, as well as unauthorised T-shirts and merchandise.

"We want to use the Rubber Duck case to drive an awareness programme raising the sensibility towards intellectual property rights around China," said Wang Jun, a senior consultant to Beijing Design Week's IP Protection Office.

Beijing Design Week will instead work with Hofman to produce and license official associated products and promises to take legal action against lookalikes.

"The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn't discriminate people and doesn't have a political connotation," says a statement on Hofman's website.

A 16.5 metre tall version of the sculpture was shown in Hong Kong from 2 May until 9 June, attracting a reported 8,000,000 people to the area.

Hofman's duck has appeared in over a dozen cities since it was first exhibited in 2007, including Sao Paulo, Sydney and Amsterdam. Its installation at Beijing Design Week, which takes place from 26 September to 3 October, will be its second in China.

Copying in design is a hot topic at the moment, with Thomas Heatherwick recently being accused of copying the design for the Olympic cauldron from a New York agency, which has since said it never accused Heatherwick of plagiarism.

This issue is particularly prevalent in China, where a Zaha Hadid development in Beijing has been pirated by a Chinese developer in Chongqing. Earlier this year, Dutch design collective Droog made a series of products copied from traditional Chinese objects.

See all our stories about copying in design »

Top image is by YY Yeung.

  • boooo

    I’ll take “good” design over “original” design any day of the week.

  • Lincoln

    If something would be totally original to apply for intellectual property, it wouldn't even be intelligible. Our ideas are created as a whole, not as an individual. I think there are other possible ways to make a living from our work other than intellectual property.
    Let our good ideas be free to grow!

  • Jouda

    This is really sad and makes absolutely no sense! I think copying these yellow ducks and putting them all around the world is a very good unifying element for the world.

    And really, Hofman’s original duck? Actually Hofman copied the traditional yellow duck which was invented long before he was born as well – he just made it bigger – there is nothing original about it. To fight copying architecture would be stopping these blogs that publish a project without even constructing it the first place!

  • CTa

    The only “problem” with copyright are the companies who try to squeeze the “consumers” (note: not people) dry. As a designer and human, I would rejoice if people started copying my design. It would mean better affordability and accessibility. Ultimately, the goal of design is to enrich people’s lives, and this won’t be accomplished if no one can afford it.

    Also, the basic underlying idea of innovation (this applies to design AND invention) is to take existing technologies/tools and combining them in new ways; everything we build upon would be “intellectual property” of someone else. How does that fit into copyright laws?

  • Desk

    Trouble is, most of the time originals are the best.

  • what a sad attempt

    The “original” in itself was already a copy!

  • Arby

    Does anyone here realise the time and money that goes in to realising a design? The materials, the dimensions, the tolerances, the shape, the glue… It’s usually anywhere from five to ten times the amount it costs to produce one unit commercially, and that’s after all the design work is done. That is why intellectual property should protect designers.

    When a knock off is made, all of those decisions are taken for granted, making the knock off brand infinitely more profitable since they have very little start-up costs. Presumably, Hofman rents out the duck in order to pay for further studio work. Would you rather support a design studio working towards new and inspiring projects, or would you rather proliferate the cheap knock offs that turn a quick buck for the factory owners in China?