The Shipping Container News: Lawsuits Threatened over Pop-Up Shopping Mall in Christchurch

I got all excited by BoxPark, Andrew Waugh's design for an almost instant shopping mall in London. Developer Roger Wade described it as "the worlds first "pop-up" mall- so named because its basic building blocks are inherently movable: They can, and will, literally pop up anywhere in the world."

And pop up they do, with a strip mall in Toronto and a sushi store in Austin.

But now Nate Berg reports in the Atlantic that Mr. Wade of London's BoxPark is not very happy about a project in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a pop-up mall was built to house retailers forced out of a shopping mall damaged in February's earthquake. In fact, they are calling it a "blatant breach of the Boxpark intellectual property rights."

It is true that one of the Christchurch City Mall board members visited London earlier in the year, in what Wade calls a meeting "to discuss a potential Boxpark joint venture in Christchurch". But as the director of the ReStart program notes in The Press, "It will be very hard to say it's a copy because it doesn't look anything like Boxpark. The only thing that aligns these things together is they both use containers."

decalb marketDecalb Market/Promo image

Nate Berg concludes:

Wade and his development groups are not likely to back down from what they see as an outright theft. As members of an intellectual property rights protection organization called ACID – Anti-Copying in Design – it’s expected that they’ll push as hard as they have to in order to get either some sort of licensing deal or even shutdown the project.

Though Wade has a patent pending for the idea, this controversy raises questions about just how far intellectual property rights can go. Boxpark Shoreditch is by no means the first project to reuse shipping containers for retail purposes. Will this potential litigation make it the last?

nortrans warehouse made of shipping containersSteadman Containers/CC BY 2.0

I don't think it raises many questions at all. Shipping containers have been used for housing, for warehouses, for retail just about since they were invented. My dad lined up two rows of them and stuck a roof over them in 1972; It could have just as easily have been a mall as a warehouse. The shipping container is, as Mr. Wade noted, a building block, that has been put together a hundred different ways, and Boxpark is not the first or the last.

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The Shipping Container News: Lawsuits Threatened over Pop-Up Shopping Mall in Christchurch
Can the use of shipping containers to design a mall be considered intellectual property?

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