Taiwanese advertising veteran Jerry Fan (范可欽), former head planner for the display of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck installation in Keelung, said yesterday that the iconic yellow rubber duck is the common property of all mankind and does not belong to an individual.
Fan made the remarks at a press conference in Taipei in response to the artist’s earlier criticism that Fan’s team had manufactured many rubber-duck-themed products without his authorization and had turned his iconic sculpture into a “commercial circus.”
The artist was absent from the inauguration ceremony for the duck display on Saturday, allegedly as a gesture of protest.
“Hofman claims that my team has infringed his copyright, but we are certain that the bathtub toy belongs to no one after talking to legal experts for the past six months,” Fan said.
Fan said Hofman’s duck was not patented in Taiwan and was therefore unprotected, adding that more than 50 trademarks featuring the toy had been registered since it first appeared.
“Only products featuring Hofman’s own designs would require his authorization,” Fan added.
Fan also mentioned his discussions with Hofman about the artist’s intellectual property and the number of unauthorized duck-themed products in China and Hong Kong during their meeting in Chengdu, China, prior to the display in Keelung.
“Hofman said at the time that there was nothing he could do about that,” Fan said, adding that the contract did not prohibit his team from selling “non-official” merchandise.
Drawing a parallel between the rubber duck and Taiwan’s popular winter dish of ginger duck soup, Fan said everyone is entitled to sell the dish because no one can claim patent ownership of it.
Fan also rebuffed Hofman’s criticism of the duck display as a “commercial circus,” saying the organizers paid as much as NT$30 million (US$1 million) for just 13,000 “official” rubber ducks.
“If that is not commercialism, then what is?” Fan asked.
Fan declined to disclose the amount of royalties the organizers paid for the display, but added that Hofman had received more than NT$10 million in royalties for the duck’s public appearances in Taiwan.
Commenting on his abrupt resignation as head planner only four days before the display, Fan said it was due to Hofman’s insistence that he quit the planning team.
The organizers had previously attributed Fan’s departure to poor communications between him and Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮).
At press time, a response from Hofman was unavailable.
Taiwan Smart Card Corp vice president Wang Yi-chung (王怡中), who also attended the press conference, said the company would suspend the sale of 10,000 rubber duck-themed stored value cards and donate them to Hofman for charitable purposes.
“The value cards were produced with the approval of the organizers. We are also surprised by Hofman’s accusations,” Wang said.
Additional reporting by CNA