Ikea Wants to Shut Down a Popular Blog, But Is it the Right Move?
Jules Yap might be Ikea's biggest fan, describing herself as "crazy" about the brand. But the blogger, known for her site that shows users how to modify Ikea furniture, is embroiled in an unusual spat with the Swedish chain.
Last week, Ikea sent a cease and desist letter to Yap, the creator of IKEAhackers.net saying that the site infringes its intellectual property rights and asking for the domain to be transferred over. Ikea has since toned down its rhetoric and is now "in dialogue" with Yap to resolve the issue, according to a posting on the website.
IKEAhackers.net shows users how to create new things using Ikea furniture and the site has become so popular that Yap uses advertising to earn money to support herself and the website.
"We want to clarify that we deeply regret the situation at hand with IKEA Hackers. It has of course never been our ambition to stop their webpage. On the contrary, we very much appreciate the interest in our products and the fact that there are people around the world that love our products as much as we do," Ikea told CNBC in an emailed statement.
The clash between Yap and Ikea underlines the difficulties of brands keeping control of their image in the Internet age. Ikea feels Yap's website is damaging the brand, but analysts told CNBC that Ikea should embrace the popularity shown by the idea.
"The old definition of protecting the brand needs to be loosened and you need consumers to be let into the brand and let them have fun with it," Stephen Cheliotis, CEO of the Centre for Brand Analysis told CNBC in a phone interview.
"The best brands are doing that and are enabling consumers to interact and play with brand in a balanced way."
The social media boom has seen brands and companies face a difficult task to stop their brands being defaced online. Budget airline Ryanair and energy company British Gas both faced corporate Twitter disasters when users hijacked the hashtags pushed by the companies to ask embarrassing questions.
Such occurrences are common in the social media age and while some brands embrace new advertising techniques, others are still looking to control the brand.
"What has prompted this is the desire for Ikea to control their brand and (they) are concerned someone is riding off the back of this," Thayne Forbes, joint managing director at Intangible Business, told CNBC in a phone interview.
Yap was devastated by Ikea's initial reaction to take legal action.
"I am crushed. 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…Could they not have talked to me like normal people do without issuing a C&D?," she wrote in a blog post on IKEAhackers.net.
While Ikea insists that its intellectual property rights are being violated, legal experts believe the case is more complex.
"The word Ikea is clearly written in that and as a result of that she is using the name Ikea and the trademark that belongs to Ikea. There is no dispute as to there being a trademark infringement," Sunad Joshi, solicitor in the commercial litigation department at Rollingsons Solicitors, told CNBC in a phone interview.
"However, showing different Ikea products in a different way is a complete grey area but I don't think that is Ikea's issue."