Last month I was among those overjoyed with the news that Ikea will be opening in multiple cities throughout the country.
Having lived in Denmark and travelled much of Scandinavia in my early twenties, it's of little surprise that I cycle everywhere and embrace the concept of "hygge" (coziness) with gusto.
With Ikea finally coming to Auckland it's also time I start thinking about replacing my cheap Scandinavian knock-off furniture that's throughout my overpriced Auckland rental.
Last month also saw the end of Auckland Art Gallery's Denmark Design exhibition. At the time, Danish Ambassador Tom Nørring said Scandinavian design is unique in its ability to be functional, beautiful, and timeless.
"Scandinavian design differs to much of its European counterparts. We don't see the glitz and glam that you might see in the Mediterranean. It's perhaps in response to life living in a colder climate. We don't have the option to live outside so we create an atmosphere that's relaxed, cozy, and minimal."
New Zealand is quite similar to Scandinavia insofar as it's one of the least corrupt countries in the world, it values human rights and gender equality, it shares similar population-sizes, and the climate vastly fluctuates, he said.
"It makes sense that Scandinavian design resonates with New Zealand audiences."
So why has Ikea taken so long to reach NZ shores? Ikea came close to opening its first Kiwi store in 2008 but lost a four-year dispute after the Environment Court ruled a proposed Mount Wellington location would cause too much traffic congestion. The Swedish retail giant was projected to be too popular, it seems.
"Ikea stores are known to have high traffic-generating characteristics," the Environment Court ruled.
But by the grace of God Ikea's parent company Ingka registered the franchise with the Companies Office in June last year. Exactly where or when it will come to fruition still remains unclear.
IP and copyright guru barrister Alan Sorrell said arguably Ikea is a design-led enterprise, which employs designers and may raise competition as to design standards.
"[It means potential] more opportunities for, and valuing of designers."
Which brings me to the issue of intellectual property and copyright. Suppose I've been purchasing Ikea knock-off pieces from the internet for years, it seems hard to determine who's at fault, if at all.
The question is whether a design has been registered in New Zealand, or whether there's any copyright. In a New Zealand context, the design must be new and original.
The Designs Act 1953 applies a local originality standard, meaning that only prior use of any product in New Zealand can be taken into account to determine originality. Purely functional products aren't able to be registered, generally.
There is the case of Tot Toys Ltd v Stanton Manufacturing, which concerned the famous "Buzzy Bee" wooden toy, its functional get-up, source motivation, and character merchandising, for example. The case fell down insofar as the bee as an idea was found not to be protected. The case could only stand if decorative elements - not functional ones - were found to be copied.
There's also the breach of copyright case of Thornton Hall Manufacturing Ltd v Shanton Apparel Ltd, which dates back to the late eighties. The High Court had to decide whether there was copyright over sketches and drawings of a woman's dress, its pattern, and a sample dress, whether the plaintiff (Thornton Hall) in fact owned that copyright, and whether the defendant (Shanton) had infringed that copyright.
Hillyer J spoke to the issue of functionality: "The fact two dresses both have pockets does not make them the same, even the pockets can vary into hundreds of different styles, I am advised."
The court found that the sketches were subject to copyright, that Shanton breached copyright of the sketches, in the pattern used from those sketches, and in the sample dress produced.
The most recent Supreme Court case concerning Sealegs International Ltd is also of interest as it highlighted the fact that an idea can't be protected in and of itself, but rather the physical manifestation of that idea.
Sealegs manufactured amphibious systems for installation on powerboats, with wheels on supporting mechanical 'legs' that enabled the powerboat to be driven from the beach to the water. The company claimed the amphibious system developed by the respondent infringed Sealegs' copyright. Sealegs won in the High Court, lost in the Court of Appeal, and again at the Supreme Court.
To make matters even more complicated, copyrights have different durations, and differ according to jurisdiction, Sorrell said. It means my Scando replica furniture might not have protected designs, and even so, the protection might not be applicable to a New Zealand context, or in fact in force in a time sense.
And then there's the issue of enforcement. Costs to bring a case before the High Court can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. "Sometimes, it's just a matter of resources as to who has the means to protect their goods," Sorrell said.