Monday, June 16, 2014

Confessions of a professional IKEA Hacker - IKEA vs. IKEAhackers.net OR IKEA shuts down IKEAHackers!

Chapter 1 - IKEA vs. IKEAHackers.net OR IKEA shuts down IKEAHacker.net


Imagine that something that you love doing could make you very rich.

Like baking for example. One day you discover that you are a really good baker. You also discover that you make really awesome cupcakes. They are a hit at school sales and your friends are willing to pay you money to bake for their kids b-day parties. You are so successful that you ditch your job and start doing it full time. Later while you cater for a bar mitzvah you consult - it is a blast and you wonder if you should not start planning First Communions.... And the story goes on and on and on, in that fashion. You are rich.
I am certain that that was exactly what Jules Yap [pseudonym] was thinking - she found something that she loved doing and she was good at it. It only made sense that she turn that into a full time profession.
Eight years after launching IKEAHackers.net - a wildly popular blog dedicated to hacking IKEA products in a clever and inspirational way - Jules Yap found herself on the receiving end of Cease and Desist, signed by none other than IKEA. A woman with passion for IKEA Hacking she staked out a permanent place for it on the WWW - organized, labeled it, ran contests and advice column. It became an on-line mecca for those seeking a fun and functional way to hack four narrow BILLY's into a cool looking mud-room cabinetry - on a budget - that was my last gig, I am the world's first professional IKEA hacker.
IKEA politely requested that she voluntarily transfer the domain name IKEAhackers.net to them or face yet-to-be-named legal action - that is a bit of a 'strong-arm' tactic, I would say. It has been pointed out that IKEAhackers.net has been around for 8 long years - whoever is in charge of watching over IKEA trademarks should be fired in my opinion, cause they were not doing their job - if it is just a trademark enforcement action, as IKEA claims.

Personally I think that Jules Yap - IKEAHackers.net - has gotten too large for IKEA's comfort. Here is a woman who turned her passion for IKEA Hacks into a business model - hey! blogging is a valid profession. If you study the ads on her blog [they will soon dissappear] you will discover that there exists a large 'aftermarket' industry that manufactures and very successfully sells products to 'hack IKEA' - clearly we now know that IKEA doesn't like that.

IKEA is an incredible control freak - I recently recall them posting ads - in Toronto, Canada - for 'full time legal counsel to be present on site during business hours.' why? - but that is typical of any corporation. No way could IKEA fully control IKEAHackers.net - and being silent for any longer was not an option. So they came down hard - even though they openly encouraged it before - 2013 IKEA Canada catalog, page 207, top right hand corner, white Tanem doors - if I recall correctly. That, in my opinion is the safest hack ever - and that is as far as IKEA went.

Some suggested that IKEA should have negotiated with IKEAHackers.net. IKEA has the best legal counsel in the world - I am certain of that - they can afford it. They probably have their own law-school*. But that would not have worked out, as there was no way to ensure a consistent legal framework that could be extended over IKEAHAckers.net. Remember those are self-submits that range in difficulty

- alas! IKEAHackers.net did not take my submissions! too professional - and quality of execution.

I've stated before that IKEA does not over-engineer, and it is my experience that you have to be knowledgeable to produce large scale IKEA hacks that are - what I would call - 'cabinetmaker-furniture maker' quality. I hack PAX wardrobers or Billy bookcases all the time - I would not call my hacks specifically DIY jobs. Sometimes I look at a picture of an IKEA hack and knowing the way it is manufactured I see the mod as a potential risk.

IKEA lawyers went about it the gentlest way that the legal profession knows - voluntarily submit your domain to us [smooth.....good pick-up line at the bar...]. Of course it looked bad - but I doubt they wanted to set a precedent and offer Jules Yap a million dollars for the domain name - which I doubt she would take - to discourage others from hijacking 'IKEA'esuqe' names and getting paid for it. I also bet a million dollars that they would kill the site - not immediately - IKEAHackers - or perhaps gently transition it into non-existence. But why, you ask?
Well imagine that IKEA is really big. No one knows how big they are because they are not publicly traded and they don't have to report to anyone - but I know this - they consume 1% of world's wood. That is a LOT of wood, but that is just a one indicator of their might. They run their own line of hinges and slides. They are phasing out incandescent power - they are getting into renewable energy. They already phased out plastic shopping bags in Toronto, Canada. They are into sustainable farming of oceans. They are into building multi-unit dwellings - there was a condominium project, here in Toronto, Canada, at Lakeshore & Dixie; called IDEA [that they killed eventually...too bad that I don't have a photo...I'm smarter these days...]

If IKEA allowed for IKEAHackers.net to exist - or encouraged it - realistically their entire People + Planet projects would be up for grabs for anyone with a case of curiosity and perhaps a Philips screwdriver! Their business model would be under attack!

This ugly spat - IKEA vs. IKEAhackers.net - is now public. Few things are obvious now - but in the end it is all good news though, I believe -

A] IKEA is threatened by IKEAHackers.net, by the concept of people hacking their products [past, present and future, whatever they may be]. They don't like it - as a corporate entity I don't think they ever liked it. Not sure why they waited so long. We are saved though, because IKEA is still a very ethical corporation - being a corporate good-nick has done very well for them. I still support them - they are a force for positive change.

B] They were not successful in taking the domain name. IKEAHackers.net still exists and is owned by Jules! Yes, the name does contain a trademark, but put together with the term 'hacking' it now describes a 'separate, IKEA-independent activity, over which - it would appear - IKEA lost control [!!!]' - that is the only reasonable explanation why the IKEA lawyers backed off - because they were unable to execute, seize. Lawyers don't play nice, they eliminate. 

Of course IKEA is not that powerless - they are starving the beast - Jules was forced to turn the blog non-commercial - no more ads. To which she responded that she will set-up a separate domain AND do both - publish IKEA hacks and show ads.

Ahh...what a mess...

This entry was triggered by an e-mail from a friend. She e-mailed me the link and asked - 'Karol, what's your take on it?' I was concerned initially. After all, I am the world's first professional IKEA hacker - won't IKEA go after me next? No. They won't. I don't believe so. Several reasons for it - hey, might as well outline my position for IKEA lawyers when they do decide to knock on my door!

SO here it is IKEA Lawyers [subject to change, in no way complete, to be expanded]:

A] You lost a LOT of Social Capital for going after IKEAHackers.net - they were your best ally! They promoted you! They championed your cause! Millions loved it - Jules' Google profile has been viewed now over 790 000 000 times. And you fucked them over. Excuse the strong language - but it is true.

B] I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker. I am a designer by education - Furniture Design 2006 [some could argue 2007]; Sheridan College, Craft & Design Program, one of the top schools for Design in North America; I design interiors - interior design field, decorating - using modified IKEA products, which are readily accessible and reasonably priced - whether it is by NOT following your instruction manuals; modifying your assembly methods, or outright 'hacking*' your products. And I BLOG ABOUT IT.




*IKEA Hacking refers [but NOT EXCLUSIVE] to a world wide movement of modifying, altering, 'moving-beyond', 'not-sticking-to-the-manual'; decorating in non-structural and in some instances structural way, of IKEA products. Since you do require most of your products to be assembled by the 'end user' you must accept the reality that IKEA Hacking was born out out a mistake of one assembler OR or cleverness of another!

**Professional IKEA Hacking - refers to making a living out of doing everything listed in * [single star; above] PLUS, modifying some products in structural ways. Since you, IKEA, already state that any mods render the warranty useless - indicating that you are no longer interested in them - I want to point out that I pick up where YOU left. My IKEA hacks are covered my Studio Kosnik warranty - Canadian commercial standard. No worries, all you need to do for a claim is to e-mail me and say that I personally did your hack. That's all - my customer service is impeccable! People love me! I remember all my clients - personally! I have a heart.

So...
I am gonna keep on doing what I do best - IKEA Hacking. My bible is the annual IKEA catalog. It is like a candy store for me - what do I hack next! Ha! Ha! Ha!
I love it. My name is Karol Kosnik, and I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker!


UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

IKEA backtracked! They are looking for a 'new way forward'. They also like the idea of people being excited about their products!