Start of the story

The USA trade war with China is one of the most discussed issues today in the press. I have my own story to tell about my experience in protecting my intellectual property and the integrity of my original artworks. Here we go... A practical study of copyright infringement of a Canadian glass artist

Design comparison of various elements of copycat oval ceiling and original Victoria's Balva glass ceiling. Copyright infringement dispute Huawei headquarters substantial copy
Design comparison of various elements of an oval ceiling designed by Nikken and the original Victoria Balva's glass ceiling installed in 2017 in Connecticut. 1 of 17 diagrams

A few months ago I was contacted by a person located in Asia about enormously large stained and leaded glass skylight being built for Huawei Headquarters in Shenzhen. Surprisingly, the rendering of the stained leaded glass skylight looked very similar in details and structure with some of my stained and leaded glass domes and ceilings.

design comparison of various elements of copycat oval dome for huawei headquarters and original Victoria Balva stained glass dome
Copyright infringement dispute substantial copy
Design comparison of various elements of the oval dome developed by Nikken for Huawei headquarters and original Victoria Balva's stained glass dome installed in 2012 in Toronto

Indeed, I sent a letter to an architectural and interior design company Nikken, located in Japan, that was working on the project. I expressed my concerns about the quality of the stained glass ceiling design, pointing out that it is a substantial copy of my work. After we exchanged a few letters, they conducted an internal investigation. Nikken accepted the fact that their employee looked at my designs while working on the project. So they appointed a Toronto based lawyer to handle the case.

Design comparison of substantial copy and original artwork designed by Victoria Balva. Copyright infringement dispute Huawei headquarters
The comparison of various details of original artworks in copyright infringement dispute

The Glass Dome

While studying the images I was sent, I could see that the project was on the early stage of fabrication - glass samples, sample skylight pieces in scale 1 to 1, construction site meetings. That stained glass oval dome could be one of the most significant stained glass projects of 21 century. If properly designed this dome could become one of the most impressive glass ceilings in the world

A copycat design of stained leaded glass oval ceiling for Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen. Copyright infringement dispute Huawei headquarters Substantial copy
A design developed by Japanese architectural design company Nikken for Huawei Headquarters in Shenzhen, Chana. Image credit Nikken Sekkei

My body of work

I recognized a few projects that "inspired" Nikken's employee to develop his sketch

Stained glass dome New Haven, Connecticut, 2017

Stained glass domed ceiling with delicate elusive colors of custom beveled glass ornament design
Stained glass dome lay light with coloured hand-beveled glass, crystal coloured and clear jewels for a custom-built residence in Connecticut. Delicate elusive colours and intricate line work make this decorative glass ceiling my signature work

Stained glass domed skylight The Bridle Path, Toronto, 2012

Custom stained leaded glass dome lay light design inspired by Hotel Plaza in New York. residential decorative glass dome ceiling fabricated with clear textured glass, crystal jewels, custom beveled glass clusters. Residential glass dome installed Toronto. Leaded glass dome design by glass artist Victoria Balva
Custom stained leaded glass dome lay light design inspired by Hotel Plaza in New York. Residential decorative glass dome ceiling fabricated with clear textured glasses, crystal jewels, custom bevelled glass ornamental clusters. Residential stained glass dome installed in 2012 in Toronto.

Stained glass dome Hoggs Hollow, Toronto, 2009

Stained glass dome in simple geometrical design with accent jewels for the custom built residence in Toronto
Stained glass dome in simple geometrical style with accent jewels for the custom built residence in Toronto

Stained glass skylight Barbini, Toronto, 2008

Large stained leaded glass skylight ceiling Barbini with delicate elusive colors of custom beveled glass and colored jewels. Intricate line work, clear textured glass, original stained leaded glass skylight design by architectural glass artist Victoria Balva
Large stained leaded glass skylight ceiling Barbini with delicate elusive colors of custom beveled glass and colored jewels.

Oval stained glass dome Vesta, 2009, Toronto

Small stained leaded glass oval dome skylight ceiling for a hallway of a private residence in Toronto. Simple geometric design, antique glass selection, very pale color highlights
Small stained leaded glass oval dome skylight ceiling for a hallway of a private residence in Toronto.

Oval leaded glass dome Tri - City, Waterloo, 2016

Simple elegant oval leaded glass dome with crystal chandelier hanging from a glass ceiling. Oval leaded glass dome is designed with clear textured glasses, crystal accent jewels in simple and elegant style. Original oval leaded glass dome design by architectural glass artist Victoria Balva
Simple elegant oval leaded glass dome with a crystal accent jewels

Stained glass skylight Gina, Toronto 2011

stained glass skylight laylight with colored beveled glass
Stained glass skylight with clear and colored beveled glass for a private residence in Toronto

Taking into account that I recently redesigned my website and removed a few old projects that "inspired" Nikkens designer as well. Those projects are no longer available for viewing

Dispute

Later, I was contacted by Nikken's lawyer Tony Prenol of Blakes. I explained my concerns. Among many optionas I offered to develop a design for this project that would be original and designed with the highest and latest achievements in the industry of decorative glass domes and skylights.

My proposition was refused by Nikken.

At a certain point, I realized that to fight two large Asian corporations I need an IP lawyer to present me in this dispute discussion. It was quite challenging to find a lawyer that would not have the conflict of interests with such giant corporations as Huawei and Nikken. Additionally, the international matter of this case made it more complicated as copyright laws in different countries vary significantly.


-- Now she is engaged in a dispute with a Japanese architecture and design firm, Nikken, which designed the building for the Chinese telecom giant. Balva is claiming copyright infringement. The dispute reveals the complex interface between copyright law and artistic practice and casts an unflattering light on a company that is already the subject of serious controversy in Canada.--

--Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail

Copycat Architecture in China

While doing my own research on the subject I found that Huawei Headquarters is widely criticized for a copycat architecture. All new Huawei campus buildings were designed and built after famous European Cities. The Wall Street Journal covered this in a story a year ago.

More surprisingly for me was to discover that there is a trend in China to copy European architecture that they admire.


-- Chinese copyright law is notoriously loose, particularly when it comes to the work of foreigners. During the building boom of the last generation in China, the country’s architecture has featured many buildings that emulate or simply duplicate Western precedents. Another office building for Huawei, at a company research centre outside Beijing and designed by a branch of the German firm GMP Architects, includes one building with a deep, angled colonnade that very closely resembles an Expo pavilion in Lisbon by the eminent Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza.--

--Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail

As can be seen, a rendering of Huawei headquarters by Nikken and image of the National Library of France look alike... Don't you think? The original library building was designed by Henri Labrouste and constructed in 1860 - 1868. The difference is ... skylight ceiling design. That's right, in 1868 the leaded glass ceilings of such enormous sizes were not installed because the technology of leaded glass art was lagging behind. It is today's trend and today's technology that allow us to create beautiful glass ceilings in a large-scale.

Digital interior design rendering with proposed oval stained leaded glass skylight copyright infringement, copycat architecture, huawei headquarters, copyright, intellectual property law
Digital rendering of the Huawei Headquarters in Zhenchen developed by Japanese architectural design company. Image credit Nikkei Sekkei.
Interior view of National Library of France with massive oval skylight
Interior view of a Reading room of National Library of France designed
by Henri Labrouste and constructed in 1868. Image credit

In particular, I made a desition to fight and protect the integrity of my design with a help of a lawyer specializing in Copyright and Intellectual Property Laws exactly when I compared these 2 images. That was my boiling point. The scale of copyright infringement was enormous and involved historical properties of the global value, the largest privately own company in China, the hi-teck design firm in Japan and one little Canadian artist, a first generation immigrant from Europe


-- Yuri Chumak argues that by Canadian standards this is clearly a violation of copyright. “The scale of the infringement is massive,” This project is “a very significant commission,” and “it is a copy,” he says, “of Balva’s signature style.”

--Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail

Intellectual Property

Yuri Chumak of Chumack and Company impressed me with his deep knowledge and understanding of the delicate issues of intellectual property protection. Based on Canadian Copyright Laws the Nikken's design is a substantial copy of my work, and my copyright was infringed.

After some discussion with Nikken's Lawyer, we finally got a drawing of the new proposed design of the oval leaded glass skylight for the approval. I noticed that the new proposed design still contained a couple of minor elements from my work, but in general, it did not look similar to my work anymore, which I confirmed

Substantial Copy Law and Legal Definition

Generally, making a substantial copy means copying a considerable or significant part of something. Substantial copying simply refers to more than just copying. The term substantial copy is often used in the context of Intellectual property. Substantial copy is a copy of a full, important, significant, or considerable amount of any work.

For instance, the Copyright Statute prevents other people from making a substantial copy of an individual's protected work, whether or not they are selling their art, entering it in competitions or perfecting their techniques. 

Information source USLegal

The New Design

Do you think the new glass ceiling design is an independent original project? Comment! I know the answer, but I want to hear your opinion first.

Summary

As a result, I had financial expenses that I did not intend to have. I spent a lot of time doing research, analyzing drawings and different information. I did put an effort to protect my intellectual property and integrity of my original design. Above all, I experienced a lot of negative emotions while I was working on this case.

Consequently, I stopped working on all design projects developments for all my current clients that I was under the contract with. The reason was that stressed and depressed I could not provide the quality design services to my clients as I usually do. Sadly, four months of my professional life were taken away. The case has not been fully resolved.


-- Chumak adds that, based on the photographs and images his team has seen, the building is in an advanced state of construction and stressed that the alleged borrowing of Balva’s ideas should not be allowed to stand.
“To the degree that Huawei is pursuing government contracts in Canada,” he says, “they should respect the rights of Canadian inventors, artists and creative people.”

--Alex Bozikovic, the Globe and Mail

Press

The story was covered today by The Globe and Mail's Architecture critic ALEX BOZIKOVIC

We need to talk about Huawei's (alleged) thefts

by Daniel Cooper

Asknolegments

I would like to thank all people that help me with the advice on how to deal right: lawyers, paralegals, journalists, clients, architects, employees, friends, and my family members. Without the support of so many people I would not make it through. Thank you!

Resources

Intellectual Property Lawyer Yuri Chumak

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