Stools don't sit comfortably together

17:00, Aug 30 2014
Merje ddm Ltd stool
DESIGN WARS: A Merje ddm Ltd stool, above, entered in the The Best Design Awards, was seen as too alike to the Pedro design, below.

A designer stool has been pulled from a top New Zealand show after an allegation it is a near copy of a Kiwi designer's work.

The company in the hot seat, Lower Hutt's Merje ddm Ltd, has denied any wrong-doing and was surprised to hear its entry had been removed from the Best Design Awards.

"It's totally unprofessional," director Miles Fowler said.

Pedro stools
The Pedro design.

The awards, organised by The Designers Institute of New Zealand, will be held on October 10 in Auckland.

Hawke's Bay's Robyn McLean said that as she scanned this year's entries, a finalist caught her eye.

"They are stools that look remarkably like stools we own. They were originally designed by a good friend in Wellington. So . . . I was stoked for him."


A closer look revealed the stools were entered by Merje ddm Ltd.

McLean emailed the award organisers and received a reply from Massey University Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Parker from the College of Creative Arts. Massey University is a gold sponsor of the awards.

"Regrettably, from time to time, we receive concerns of this nature regarding entries into our awards programme," Parker wrote.

The institute did not have the resources to pursue legal investigations into disputes over intellectual property.

"You will appreciate that there will be two sides in all these cases. Rest assured that if your friend has legal documents that prove ownership of intellectual property and that demonstrate an entry contravened that ownership, we would exclude the offending work."

Craig Bond, who designed the original Pedro stools, said he was "totally mystified".

"They're a really good manufacturer."

While design was all about different influences, the situation was "pretty blatant", he said.

In a statement, Designers Institute chief executive Cathy Veninga said it was aware of a dispute over the stools.

"Pending further investigation, the Designers Institute has decided to remove the Best Design Awards entry for the Rod stool design."

Fowler said Merje had not set out to copy anyone.

The two stools were not that alike, apart from being made from wire, he said. All design was "a melting pot".

"Ford and Hyundai are pretty similar."

He was surprised to hear the chair had been yanked from the awards. "You'd have thought they would have told us."

The company had manufactured the original chairs, and held designs and tooling, however these were not used.

In 2002 Farmers pulled a range of ceramic dishes it had made in China after copying the designs of Kiwi potter Bob Steiner.

Sunday Star Times