The website was set up by Jules Yap (a pseudonym inspired by IKEA’s Jules chair) about eight years ago to collect ideas about modifications to IKEA furniture and gather them all in one place. The furniture maker alleged that the site infringed on its intellectual property rights and asked the owner to hand over the domain name, threatening legal action if their request was not satisfied.
The letter from IKEA came several months ago and after “much negotiation,” Yap was allowed to keep the site on the condition that it doesn’t feature advertising. Yap agreed to the demand and will maintain the IKEAhackers site, but will move to a new domain in the near future where it will be able to host advertisements. She has yet to name the new domain and wrote that she was “crushed” by the way IKEA was handling the issue.
The news sparked anger and regret across the IKEAhackers’ community, with one user saying IKEA was missing out on a “great branding and overall marketing opportunity” by asking the site to stop rather than team up with it. The move was also criticized by group blog BoingBoing, which called the cease-and-desist letter “pure bullying” and “an attempt at censorship.”
According to Lifehacker’s Angus Kidman, “The reality is that the brand damage done by this kind of Streisand effect move is potentially greater than any risk of dilution.” The “Streisand effect,” according to The Economist, occurs when an effort to suppress online information backfires and ends up making the situation worse. The phrase originated after singer/director/actress Barbra Streisand sued the California Coastal Records Project, which published photos of the California coastline, claiming that her privacy had been invaded because the archive included pictures of her Malibu mansion. The suit resulted in a proliferation of links and viewers to the site, exposing her property to far more viewers than would have otherwise known about it.
What other trademark infringement cases are similar to this IKEA case?