May 24th 2013
In June 2012, architect and designer Beth Galí started legal proceedings in the Court of Barcelona for copyright infringement against the Qatari Public Works Authority (Ashghal), and subsequently against the State of Qatar, the sole owner of Ashghal. The case is based on a breach of copyright in the manufacturing and erection of a thousand counterfeited Latina street lamps on one of Doha’s main avenues. Beth designed this lamp and transferred the exclusive world rights to Spanish company Santa & Cole.
The Court of Barcelona ordered the complaint to be translated into Arabic (over 1,000 pages) and officially transferred it to the State of Qatar, which eventually appeared before the Court, alleging a series of procedural exceptions. Specifically, it called for the case to be transferred to the Court of Doha. However, Qatari national law does not comply with international agreements that Qatar has been signatory to for several decades. Some international sources have raised concerns about whether the judiciary is truly independent.
The massive counterfeiting case of the Latina street lamp in Doha dates back to 2006. Beth Galí and Santa & Cole discovered the atrocity that had been erected on Doha’s main avenue, Al Waab Street when, astonishingly, they were asked to help rectify the shoddy work that had been done. International awareness of the case, perhaps the biggest counterfeiting case ever, was recently boosted when it won the Plagiarius 2013 Award, the top negative award given in Europe. By making false copies from the original drawings of Santa & Cole, which had earlier won the tender for the work, the State of Qatar has caused serious moral damage to Beth Galí, significant economic damage to Santa & Cole, and jeopardised the safety of its citizens, since the poor quality fakes have led to numerous accidents from glare and falling parts.
As the exclusive producer of Latina, Santa & Cole is supporting and defending Beth Galí’s case, in addition to finalizing its own formal claim for economic damages against Ashghal and the State of Qatar. Compliance with intellectual rights directly affects the entire design sector in Spain and Europe and indirectly the whole knowledge economy, which is the mainstay of the twenty-first century.