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Belgian artisan wins Zara plagiarism court case

18:48 06/07/2017

The retail chain Zara Home has been found guilty of plagiarism for a candle it sold sporting an image taken from a piece created by Limburg woodcarver Patrick Damiaens. The master woodcarver, who is well known in the industry, had placed a photograph of the design on his website in 2013.

In 2014, Damiaens was contacted by a colleague in France who recognised his work on the €16 candles lining the shelves at Zara Home. Damiaens contacted Inditex, Zara’s parent company, and complained. While the company claimed that the similarity was a coincidence, it pulled the candles from sale.

The image is of a Dutch family herald from the 17th century, reworked by a descendant and registered at the Herald Bureau Nagtegaal in the Netherlands. The descendant, who joined Damiaens in filing a complaint against Inditex, owns the copyright to the design.

“This clearly illustrates the intentions and attitude of Zara Home when designing and producing the candle,” said the court. “A commercially interesting and existing design of not too much renown is reproduced on the applicable goods in order to optimise sales without any recognition of the person who actually created the work and whose personality the work reflects.”

Zara Home was ordered to pay damages and legal costs and to publish the decision in the Dutch Heraldisch Tijdshrift, a magazine focused on heraldic art.

“I am very happy with the result,” said Damiaens, who lives and works in Maaseik. “Zara Home found images of my sculpture online, copied my work on one of its products and sold it all over the world without asking my permission. And then, when asked for an explanation two years ago, they simply waived the expression of my concern and feeling of disrespect away. They even threatened me with a lawsuit for slander. I felt insulted and was too stubborn to let things go just like that.”

Photo: Zara’s candle on the left and Patrick Damiaens’ work on the right

Written by Lisa Bradshaw (Flanders Today)