Tesla cat bed draws plagiarism accusations from Taiwan family firm
Taipei, Aug. 17 (CNA) Hulumao, a Taiwan-based producer of cat furniture and accessories, has cried foul after Tesla, the world's most valuable automaker, began selling a cardboard cat bed in China that closely resembles one of its products.
The Tesla product, which recently went on sale on the company's website in China and e-commerce platforms like Taobao, is marketed as resembling the firm's yet-to-be-released Cybertruck.
Earlier this week, Taiwanese YouTuber Jeff Young released a video pointing out the bed's similarity with a cat "lounge chair" put out by Hulumao in 2017, noting that without the logo, the two products are "more or less 95 percent identical."
In an interview on Thursday, Hulumao founder Hsiao Shih-chang (蕭世昌) told CNA he and his wife launched the company in 2016 and had rolled out seven different cat bed models to date, four of which have been copied and sold by firms on the Chinese market.
Crucially, Hulumao does not hold patents on its products, Hsiao said, citing advice from lawyers that it is very difficult to secure intellectual property rights over such DIY-style products.
"We would need to apply for an external design patent, the details of which -- such as size and dimensions -- are often quite controversial ... unless it is the product of a large company," he said.
Despite this, Hsiao said companies that he suspected of copying Hulumao's designs -- possibly including Tesla -- had already won patents in China, judging by the photographs used in their applications.
In a Hail Mary of sorts on Monday, Hulumao published a Chinese and English letter to Elon Musk on its social media pages, "thanking" the Tesla founder "for promoting our product with [the] Tesla logo on it and selling it in China."
"[However], we are sure we have never manufactured this model for [Tesla] in China nor licensed the design to you. There must be something misunderstood in this matter," the post reads.
A representative for Tesla's brand in Taiwan could not be reached for immediate comment on the allegations.
As for Hulumao, Hsiao said the company owed its start to his wife's love for cats and creativity in crafting cat beds and accessories distinct from others on the market.
"Our products' main appeal is their uniqueness of design," he said.
Asked about the strange experience of seeing a highly similar product being sold as the branded merchandise of a global corporate behemoth like Tesla, Hsiao replied "I guess there's not really much we can do."
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