Ikea vs Superfans: how paranoid trademark lawyers make everything suck


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/27/ikea-vs-superfans-how-paranoi.html

In 2014, IKEA, the Swedish-based global furniture company, sent a cease-and-desist letter to a blogger by the name of Jules Yap. Yap ran the extremely popular website IKEAhackers.net, which helped people “hack” IKEA furniture into new, creative, and unexpected designs. The site was already almost a decade old when IKEA’s lawyers demanded that Yap hand over the URL. What follows is a case study from Superfandom: How Our Obsessions are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are.


I don’t think IKEA was forced to backpedal. They did, and I am glad they did, but there are many other companies that would have sued Yap into the ground, just because they can. Stuff like this tends to get handed to the company lawyers, and that is what company lawyers do. Fortunately the CEO - yes the CEO without an exclamation mark - had the intelligence and the humanity to step in and halt the madness before it went too far.



I suppose it’s possible that IKEA realized that the hacking could only expand their customer base.


Given the headaches Ikea has given me over the years, I have a real hard time saying this, but, yay Ikea x2.

An aside: If you do not foresee a need to take your Ikea stuff apart down the road, use wood glue as your assembling. The difference in structural integrity is night and day.


What I don’t understand is why anybody would promote any company unless paid to do it - unless it is a not-for-profit creating some kind of social capital.


I have a highly effective solution: do not be a fan of a brand name.


One word: Ads! (A couple of banners on their website.)

Another word: Sales! (The site sells craft items.)



This isn’t the first time IKEA has done this. One of my favorite blogs a year or more ago was an IKEA hack blog. It was all about repurposing IKEA stuff, and making it better. They decided to sue the blogger that ran it, and then there was an outcry, and they back pedaled. The end result was the blog went down, I think.


There must be something wrong with me. Every time I’ve ever been to an IKEA I’ve started fantasizing about leaving after about 2 minutes.


Me too. When I was younger I thought it was so cool, but after owning some of it, I just cannot stomach it. And people say the high end stuff is good, but at those prices, I think Bassett has nicer stuff and you don’t have to build it yourself.


Ikea stuff comes in two flavors:

1: Collegiate Inexpensive. It’ll get the job done for a few hundred dollars. Mostly pressed wood laminate.
2: Small Family Moderate. Fairly inexpensive for baby stuff and that new dresser you needed, mostly wood with butcher block construction or metals.

After a while you outgrow both. Your place, even in the city, never looks as good as their catalog and you stop trying. They’re still there when you want to redo your kitchen and use cabinet fronts by another company though.


“We want to clarify that we deeply regret the situation at hand with IKEAhackers,” IKEA told a reporter

The thing is, I can easily believe that they do regret it, and not because of the inevitable backlash but because the human beings who make up IKEA are just as capable as every other human being of seeing how stupid and pointlessly destructive it is.

We need to stop acting surprised every time an organisation turns out not to possess the judgment that its individual members each possess. Most of our society’s biggest problems are clear examples of how wrong that assumption is.


Me, I’m a fan of avoiding fanaticism in general


You might want to check out the book Horrorstor:

I won’t say it’s a great book, but it’s got a lot of funny bits for anyone who has ever been stuck in an Ikea.


It’s worth adding that the takedown notices and other threats are due in large part to the way corporate lawyers work. Sending out these letters is an easily trackable process that fits neatly into the systems they have set up for managing and billing for their caseload. They bill based on the number of these they issue and they get judged based on the number of cases they close.

Typically, Internet cease and desist letters are slam dunks, issued against the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet. It’s not worth it to the lawyers to actually spend time to evaluate their targets, nor is it convenient to enter into negotiations. It’s faster and more profitable to shoot first and let the corporate PR department to deal with any blowback.


I own quite a number of IKEA furniture. I think the stuff is perfectly serviceable, and despite that it’s flatpack furniture it’s more robust and durable than the kind one finds elsewhere.

I don’t have the means to afford and transport more durable furniture so the IKEA stuff has served me quite well. However i’m moving later this year and i’m not looking forward to taking my bed apart and also transporting my several book shelves.


For a look at the dark side of this, see the case of Axanar Productions vs. Paramount/CBS. Axanar Productions started as a Star Trek fan film, with a successful kickstarter and the preliminary screenings looked very good, better than what was coming out of JJTrek at the time. Sadly, mistakes were made and Axanar came to the attention of the owners of the Star Trek franchise, who then sued them into the ground for misappropriating the Star Trek trademark and intending to make money off of it without permission (the appropriate baksheesh). As a result, the whole Star Trek fan film ‘industry’ had to be majorly overhauled, with new restrictions placed on everyone about what can and cannot be done with anything related to Star Trek.


There is no chance of confusion or dilution from Ikeahackers’ use of the mark.

Seems to me some folks get confused with remarkable ease.



Have you never bought something and liked it enough that you told your friends about it? Maybe everything else you bought from the same company turned out to be pretty great too, so you concluded that CompanyCorp makes good stuff?

It’s not a Golden Palace Casino tattoo on one’s forehead, it’s perfectly reasonable and normal behavior. Some of the principals here post about products that impress or delight them all the time — I’m not talking about the Boing Boing Store :unamused:, but when @jlw writes up the best motorcycle hammer he’s ever used, or @frauenfelder writes about a board game that his daughters really enjoy.


Technically Ikea is a nonprofit. :smirk:

Anyway, I’m with you. I’ll tell people how awesome something is if I really like it and have reason to think they care, but beyond that, not so much.