Nothing says you love your fans like sending them a cease and desist order. That happened to be the spin the Ikea PR folks had to deal with when they threatened legal action to shut down the uber-popular Ikea fan site, IkeaHackers.net.
Here is how IkeaHackers.net founder, Jules Yapp (a pseudonym) described the situation on June 14: "Some months ago I received a cease and desist (C&D) letter from the agent of Inter Ikea Systems B.V., citing that my site Ikeahackers.net has infringed upon its intellectual property rights. In that letter they asked that I agree to voluntarily transfer the domain name Ikeahackers.net to them, failing which they reserve the right to take any legal action it deems necessary against me."
IkeaHackers.net is a website where people post photos and plans of how they created new furniture from combining and changing standard Ikea furniture. Somebody would make a soap dish out of a metal spoon. Someone else would show how they used Ikea glass vases to make a privacy wall for a bathtub.
The problem was, in part, that the site was called IkeaHackers.net.
"From the perspective of Ikea’s lawyers, you can certainly see why a site called Ikea Hackers that suggests alternate uses for your products could cause a number of issues for your brand, including safety and trademark infringement," state a post on the blog Vervecast.com. "But it’s worth noting that Ikea waited eight years to do anything about the site. (Note: It may have something to do with ads recently appearing on the site, since there is now a commercial interest.)"
Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan at Gizmodo said Ikea's actions were a mistake by "a company that prospers from the devotion of its fans. It's hard to find a person who doesn't foster a little kernel of Ikea love in their heart, like a Swedish meatball warming on a metal rack. IkeaHackers is a place to talk about that love and share creative ideas about it. It's harmless fun, a burgeoning community of fans who are excited about Ikea and the hidden genius of its products. And what's more, it gets more people excited about the company (and into its stores)."
Fan reaction on Twitter to Ikea's move against Yapp lends credence to Campbell-Dollaghan's view:
"Bad move by #Ikea. #Ikeahackers was actually encouraging more sales," tweeted @PranoyG.
@csdesignla tweeted, "#IKEA has just ordered the shutdown of one of their best forms of free advertising ever. WhyDelete-Merge Up