The Heart of the Matter

The smiley-hearts found on Silom Road

The smiley-hearts found on Silom Road

I knew it was bad, but I did not know how bad it was until I saw an undergrad walking in Paragon. She was wearing a white T-shirt with the words Mahidol University stretched as two-line black text across her chest. What caught my eye was the ‘o’ in the name of the school. It was replaced by the red, mouth-less smiley-heart unique to Comme des Garcon’s Play line. The icon called out for attention from her left breast, at the spot where the original Play version would have appeared.

Two days later, at the same mall, another female student from another university wore a white tee with the following text: “I love Chula”. Yes, you guessed it: “love” was replaced by the smiley-heart I have just described.

I can understand the school dropout peddling fake merchandise in Chatuchak weekend market, but I cannot comprehend the motivation of  those in tertiary institutions hijacking the designs of others as their own. Is it not disturbing to think that plagiarism is rife in places of education? (Which does make you wonder if original dissertations exist.)

Surely Thais are aware that the country is blacklisted as one of the many intellectual property offenders named by the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR). This is as much about selling counterfeit merchandise as not respecting trademarks (or brand icons). Many people choose to be blanketed by apathy until, perhaps, when Thailand receives penalties such as trade barriers and embargoes.

Sure, a brand icon such as the said smiley-heart is cute and desirable. It is easy to copy, and, therefore, vulnerable to the copyists. But in universities where thinking is encouraged rather than mimicking, is it acceptable for students to not think before adopting images not conceived or designed by them so as to use them for enhancing their school T-shirt? How cool is copying?

The students were not only disregarding the intellectual property of a much-loved fashion brand, but also negating the work of the creator of the smiley-heart, Filip Pagowski. That, to me, is double the crime.


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