Taiwan Pet Company Accuses Tesla of Copying Cardboard Cat Box Design
A few days ago, we reported that Tesla was selling a cardboard litter box/cat bed that matched the angular shape of its yet-to-be-released Cybertruck. It turns out, the angles and shape might be coincidental, as a Taiwan-based pet company is claiming Tesla "borrowed" its existing design.
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. https://t.co/N94oYCiADS
— Focus Taiwan (CNA English News) (@Focus_Taiwan) August 17, 2023
According to Focus Taiwan, the Taiwan-based based Hulumao released a very similar looking product in 2017, albeit without the Tesla logo on the front. Hulumao founder Hsiao Shih-chang reportedly said that since founding the company in 2016, various companies on the Chinese market have been copying and selling his product. The Tesla cat bed/litter box is only available in China, too.
While Musk's Tesla has been involved in various trademark cases over its history, and Musk's rebranded Twitter (now known as X) is in the midst of a potential trademark battle, this one might not go anywhere.
According to Focus Taiwan, Hulumao doesn't hold patents on its products, as lawyers have advised the owners that it's hard to get rights over "such DIY-style products."
"We would need to apply for an external design patent, the details of which, such as size and dimension, are often quite controversial ... unless it is the product of a large company," Hsiao told Focus Taiwan.
He went on to say that he believes Tesla might've gotten a patent for their product, but the company still published a post on Instagram in both Chinese and English "thanking" Musk for promoting their product and calling attention to the similarity.
"Dear Mr. Elon Musk, although we don't know each other, very thank you [sic] for promoting our product with Tesla logo on it and selling it in China," the post says. "Meanwhile, we are sure we have never manufactured this model for Tesla company in China, nor licensed the design to you. There must be something misunderstood in this matter."
That's about as far as they can go without any legal grounds. But, it's fair to say that Hulumao at least wants to bring attention to its own products. If people jump at the chance to buy this Tesla-branded box, there might be other products from Hulumao that people would like, too. It just might not have as much appeal to Tesla customers.
Tesla recently won a legal battle in China after beer and soda products branded with Tesla logos and imagery popped up online. Tesla has been selling licensed beer in Europe, and this means it will likely spread that to the Asian market, too.
It's hard to deny here that Tesla didn't borrow Hulumao's design, even if they were legally in their rights to do so. There's nothing that the law could do to punish them, but it does take away a little bit of their creativity credibility — especially when the company is often heralded for its originality. What was once a spot-on design to evoke the angular nature of the Cybertruck is now purely just a coincidence.