Atari file law suit in US against Kit Kat makers Nestle.

A four bar kit Kat in its signature red packaging with an image of a single bar broken in two to simulate their tag line
Atari, the makers of some of the early popular video games claims that a TV ad that aired in 2016 by Nestle, exploited ‘breakout’s’ appearance and feel.

Watch the commercial here:

Kit Kat bars depicting the breakout game

The advert replaces the bricks from the game Breakout, with single Kit Kat bars.

Atari breakout game screen. Coloured blocks with a ball that bounces up and down to break the blocks
The BBC news reports: Nestle stated it’s aware of the lawsuit and will defend itsef strongly against the allegations made.

It’s a long standing argument about appropriation in the design world.

Appropriation has two meanings in the design world according to the Interaction Design Foundation:

Appropriation is either:

The use of pre-existing objects/images within a design or art with marginal amounts of transformation applies to them. Yet there is an understanding that this act of appropriation will introduce new context to the existing work.

The use of a product by its users in a way not intended by the designer.

There are a few celebrated designers and artists that have used objects already in existence and changed their context with very minimal adjustments to the original design.

A urinal turned on its back and signed R.mutt 1917 and placed in an art exhibition.
Marcel Duchamp and the famous “Fountain”. A simple urinal placed on a pedestal, signed by Duchamp and placed in an exhibition, while rejected by the panel, it changed the conversation about appropriation and has influenced design work in many different ways since.

Pink Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe print
Andy Warhol used appropriation in a number of his works. The Campbell’s soup can, the print image of Marilyn Monroe.

Prints of Campbell's tins of soup by Andy Warhol
The biggest concern in this matter is Copyright. Andy Warhol won a litigation case against him regarding his Campbell soup work despite having reproduced the image of the soup tin.

This type of appropriation is the use of existing objects. Using products different to the intended use it was designed for, is another type of appropriation.

This type of appropriation is widely celebrated today. You see many “hack” posts to make people’s lives that little bit easier, many of which use everyday household items but not in the way in which they were designed.

A swimming pool noodle as cable and wire protection instead of a floating device or a bulldog clip to hold our phone chargers to a table for easy use.

Bulldog clips on the side of a desk holding phone chargers
Appropriation forms so much of our design thinking in this digital age and has done for many years. It’s a very relevant arguement that no design is really ever completely original and inspiration has to come from somewhere.

Do you think the Kit Kat advert is considered appropriation or a breach of Copyright? 

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Author – Lindsey Ahmet

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