McDonald’s rolls out replicas despite ‘piracy’ accusation

Fast food giant McDonald’s is to continue to roll out an interiors format that uses replicas of iconic chairs, despite criticism from one of its former interiors contractors, which has accused the company of piracy. Fritz Hansen earlier this month severed its multimillionpound partnership with the chain to supply its Egg (pictured), Swan and Seven chairs as part of a Europe-wide refurbishment programme, when it discovered McDonald’s had been using reproductions of the items in the UK.

However, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s maintains that it is acting within the law, because according to legal advice it sought, design rights for the chairs expired in 1983. McDonald’s has said the design format, which uses ‘reproduction similars’ of the Arne Jacobsen chairs made by Fritz Hansen, will continue to be rolled out across its UK outlets, although European outlets will use alternative design options based on concepts developed by French designer Philippe Avanzi. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s says, ‘the reproduction similar chairs are widely and legitimately available in the UK, sourced from legitimate suppliers. We’ve made no attempt to pass them off as originals.’ ‘We will continue to implement the [design] concept, as it best fits how we want to look across the UK high street,’ she adds. The case highlights the differences in attitudes towards intellectual property rights in the UK and Europe, says Anti Copying in Design chief executive Dids Macdonald.

The refurbishment programme, based on a strategy called Less is More, which was developed by McDonald’s in-house design team in conjunction with Avanzi, is being overseen by the food giant’s head of brand strategy Pierre Woreczek and senior director of marketing and strategic planning Jenni Smallshaw.

Fritz Hansen, which is the sole rights holder and producer of furniture designed by Danish architect Jacobsen, had been supplying furniture as part of McDonald’s refurbishment programme since 2006. ‘McDonald’s approached us with a concept that we found interesting – to furnish outlets with Jacobsen chairs, some 2500 of which have been installed in restaurants,’ says Fritz Hansen chief executive Jacob Holm. In London, the Holborn and Edgware Road branches of McDonald’s feature the replica Jacobsen chairs.


Arne Jacobsen designed The Ant in 1952, the Model 3107 chair in 1955, and The Egg and The Swan chairs in 1958

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