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'Bookniture' Kickstarter Opens Up a Design Plagiarism Debate

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When Hong Kong-based designer Mike Mak launched his "Bookniture" Kickstarter campaign in early February, he found immediate success. The project hit its $50,000 fundraising goal in just five days. Mak's product is exactly what it sounds like: a $60 bound book that folds out, accordion-style, into versatile pieces of furniture (i.e. a stool, foot rest, nightstand, or standing desk). By now, the campaign has raised over $300,000 with a month still left in the campaign. All's looking for good for first shipments to begin in late spring, except for one little thing: people, including one Canadian design studio that already produces a very similar product, have started calling this project a copycat, leaving some ardent supporters wondering if the campaign will be suspended altogether.

As Core77 recently pointed out, "Bookniture" looks a whole lot like the "softseating" line from Vancouver-based design studio molo. On the Bookniture campaign page, a comment that claims to be from molo founders Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen asserts that the product is a "very direct copy of [molo's] brown and black kraftpaper softseating" and that "even the felt pad is taken directly from ours." (Bookniture offers a "felt top" in four different colors as a coaster of sorts.) Indeed, both products employ the sturdy honeycomb paper structure and use magnets to lock in the fanned-out shape. The main point of differentiation for Bookniture is adding the book spine cover, which lots of supporters argue is a much more appealing packaging and enough of an "innovation" for the design to stand on its own.

Moreover, it looks like many people who pledged money to Bookniture are not about to lose a hot new purchase to the intricacies of IP law, and have taken it to the project's comment section to voice support. A few examples:

There's nothing that comes from scratch, all designs evolve and developed from one another, otherwise no one will buy a chair except from one maker. There are some very specific patented honeycomb structural designs, but the basic concept and design were taken from nature, and can be freely utilized by anyone. After comparing all three products I would still buy the bookniture just for the simple fact of the book-like concept and it's possiblity to store in my bookshelf. Anyway, there are actually several other versions of honeycombed foldable chairs already being manufactured in Europe and Asia. It's just that launching something on a super visible crowdfunding platform catches a lot of attention. And sometimes, it's the negative kind. In a separate comment, the self-proclaimed mobo founders said they've reached out to Mak with a "fair proposal" and will "pursue strong legal action in the U.S. and China." Stay tuned. Below, a few more shots of Bookniture:

· Bookniture Looks an Awful Lot Like Molo's Softseating. What Say You? [Core77]
· Bookniture- Furniture Hidden in a Book [Kickstarter]
· All Kickstarter coverage [Curbed National]