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February 16, 2009

'Prize-winning design concept a simple rip-off?'

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Above, the headline of Olle Zackrisson's January 14, 2006 Smart Stuff post about the origin of the Cake Cutter featured here last Saturday.

For those not familiar with Sweden-based Smart Stuff , let me note that they consistently feature things gadget- and tech-related not just days, weeks or months but, rather, years ahead of many far more well-known sites.

Here's what Olle had to say three years ago.

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Prize-winning design concept a simple rip-off?

The other day we posted a story on the smart cake cutter design concept [A, above] from Mod Design Development in Taiwan. A design that won a Red Dot Design award. This morning we had a disturbing e-mail from Smart Stuff reader Ofer K. who writes:

"About the P'sof cake thing — it really is a great idea, and works wonderfully, and I say this from first-hand experience. But how can that be? It's only a design concept, no? Well, I've had a cutter just like it for the past five years or so, and I even took a picture of it [B, above]. I don't know who made it. I got it here in Israel, but I assume that, like all things plastic, it was probably made in China."

Thank you Ofer, for the mail and for the picture. We suppose none of our readers have any trouble spotting the similarities between Ofer's five-year-old cake cutter (B) and the prize-winning design concept from Mod Design (A). The question is if such a design can be "in the air" as it is sometimes claimed, or if Mod Design submitted (and won an award for) a simple rip-off. I that case not only have we been fooled into crediting the wrong people, but the much respected Red Dot jury has been led to award a prestigious prize on unjust premises. This is sad, not only for the unknown designer of Ofer's cake cutter, but also for every serious designer who works hard to come up with original ideas and solutions. We hope that the last word in this case has not been written.

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The reason I featured this ancient (in internet time) history is because it illustrates an everyday dilemma, namely that of whose idea was it?

I've read much on the subject of invention and originality over the years and all that's happened is that I'm now less certain than ever about who deserves credit for something: the person who thought it up and then lost interest, essentially letting it disappear, or the person who discovered it and then took the proverbial ball and ran with it — all the way to the house.

I've always believed that for those who read languages other than English, time spent in the archives can result in astounding [re]discoveries capable of bringing great wealth and fame to any individual able to recognize a breakthrough that died because it was too obscure and/or too early.




February 16, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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