Ikea's blogger relations criticized for 'crushing' fan site owner

Ikea's blogger relations efforts are being scorned by the owner of a fan-generated blog and its supporters after the Swedish furniture company eliminated her right to advertise on the site due to trademark infringement.

Ikea’s blogger relations efforts are being scorned by the owner of a fan-generated blog and its supporters after the Swedish furniture company eliminated her right to advertise on the site due to trademark infringement.

The eight-year-old blog, Ikeahackers.net, covers modifications on and repurposing of Ikea products. It has more than 134,000 fans on Facebook and over 8,000 followers on Twitter. The site’s Malaysia-based owner goes by the pseudonym "Jules Yap," inspired by Ikea's Jules chair. 

Yap revealed in a blog entry on Saturday that Dutch company Inter Ikea Systems, owner of Ikea’s trademark and concept, sent her a cease-and-desist letter a few months ago, stating that she must voluntarily transfer her site’s domain name to them. After negotiations, the company has allowed her to keep the domain name on the condition that she removes all ads from the site by June 23.

She wrote in the post that she agreed to the demand, but was unimpressed with the way the company handled the situation.

"Needless to say, I am crushed," wrote Yap, who refers to herself as a "crazy, naïve" Ikea fan.

"I don’t have an issue with them protecting their trademark, but I think they could have handled it better. I am a person, not a corporation. A blogger who obviously is on their side. Could they not have talked to me like normal people do without issuing a C&D?" she wrote.

Yap added that she never intended to "exploit [Ikea’s] mark," and explained that she turned to advertising to support herself and the site, since Ikea doesn’t pay her a cent.

To solve the issue, Yap is moving the site to a new domain where she can host ads, but she doesn’t know yet what it will be called.

In an emailed statement, Inter Ikea Systems explained that, while interest in Ikea’s products is appreciated, the company has a "great responsibility for our customers."

The company added that customers "should always be able to trust the Ikea brand," and people want to know what is really connected to Ikea and what isn’t.

"The Ikea name and brand must be used correctly," the statement said. "When other companies use the Ikea name for economic gain, it creates confusion and rights are lost."

Social media strategist Mack Collier wrote in his blog that Ikea should have handled this situation as if it was an opportunity, not a threat.

"If the brand was really worried about advertisements on the site, then make a deal with the fan running it to have her remove all ads, and in exchange Ikea would sponsor the site for the amount she would have earned in ad revenue," he wrote. "That turns a negative PR event into an incredibly positive one for Ikea. It generates new fans for the brand, and everyone wins."

Meanwhile, Cory Doctorow, an editor at Boing Boing, an online "zine," wrote that Ikea’s move is "pure bullying, an attempt at censorship."

Ikea’s actions ignited a storm of protest on Twitter from Ikeahackers.net supporters:


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