Spanish lighting company Santa & Cole has filed a lawsuit against the State of Qatar due to the counterfeiting of 920 street lamps (image above) designed by architect Beth Gali in 1998, and launched the campaign website Qatar Fakes to spread the word about what might be one of the biggest cases of public large-scale forgery in the history of design. Not only is Qatar’s behaviour disrespectful and unethical, the fake street lights are also damaging the authoring company’s image because they are badly copied. The fakes are a safety hazard and will most likely end up in landfill very soon.
So what happened? After Santa & Cole, by invitation in 2005, presented a whole lighting project for the transformation of Al Waab Street (Doha) on occasion of the XV Asian Games in 2006, Qatar officials approved the project and asked the company for a formal quotation and more technical details. Already suspicious, the Spanish company was informed a few days later by their Qatar agent that the officials went ahead and asked a local company to straight out copy the Latina street lamp designed by Beth Gali. Some time later, 920 fake Latina lamps appeared, lining Al Waab Street toward the harbor in Doha. To make the situation even more ridiculous, Santa & Cole first saw the counterfeiting when they were requested by Qatar officials to visit Doha to see whether they could repair the fake streetlamps already installed!
What followed were some apparent surprised apologies, the replacement of the road maintenance manager, years of trying to reach a friendly agreement, even a re-design of the street light using LEDs by Gali, but, after the Qatari government refused the arbitration of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the case is now in the hands of the Courts of Barcelona. It is easily one of the biggest large-scale counterfeiting by a public state in the history of design, finally made public.
Meanwhile the fake street lights keep being a serious traffic hazard due to blinding spotlights caused by low quality fixtures, unsafe structures due to the use of too thin steel components and lack of structural reinforcement at the base, all of which does not comply with safety and structural requirements. If you want to see the difference, check out the real Latina street lamps (image above) in cities across Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, and follow the case via Qatar Fakes, Twitter or Facebook.