Some of you may have noticed the frankly unashamed copy of Jump In! that has appeared in the Philippines. We’re pleased this has been picked up by Business World who have brought to the fore the issue of intellectual property theft and our worry around the safety of people visiting the installation.
Read the full article below:
One look at the milky pool of white balls inside an old-fashioned building in Makati explains why 28,069 people had already “Facebook liked” Ball Pit Manila by the eve of its actual public opening. In the photos posted on its social media pages, the playground reserved for “kid-ults” — those 16-year-olds and above — seemed like an innocent reprieve from the muddle of adult life. And, in an age of “throwback” posts, that picture of adults in a sea of snow-like balls was a promising return to a fond memory that maturity has stolen.
In fact, nostalgia seems to have been at play in the business dealings of Pretty Penny Productions, which created Ball Pit Manila as an “event installation.” The emotion was so strong that at least 3,000 people have already placed their money down for the opportunity to dive into the ball pit despite seeing it only on the internet.
But like so many photos on the internet today, that picture is fake. “’Yun ’yung from New York siya (That’s the one from New York),” one of Ball Pit Manila’s owners, Katrina Kay Lacap, said of the photo when asked a week before Ball Pit Manila’s March 1 launch.
In an interview with BusinessWorld at the Campos Rueda Building on Urban Ave. in Makati, where the ball pit is located, Ms. Lacap said that their promotional photos and video were actually of Jump In!, an interactive art installation inspired by playful snowy scenes and mounted by London-headquartered creative design agency Pearlfisher.
According to a statement, aside from London, Jump In! has been hosted in New York and the Manchester Science Festival. Ms. Lacap and company learned of Jump In! through viral Facebook posts on it from their foreign friends.
“[Jump In! creators] placed the pit inside their office and it was open to the public on appointment basis,” Ms. Lacap said. “We decided maybe we can bring this to the Philippines and then have two things every adult needs which is coffee and then play,” she said. Not even a week after being mesmerised by the Jump In! photos, the partners began “testing” the Philippine market in January.
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND CLIENTS
“All over the world, ball pits are popping up. There’s one in China, there’s one everywhere,” she said. “They got the concept from another artist who filled the room with white balloons,” she added. “This is different. I guess you take certain ideas and then transform it.”
There was no need to ask for permission in recreating that place here in Manila, she believes.
“It’s just an installation. That’s it,” she said of Jump In! which had, in fact, been honoured by the UK-based Design Week awards in 2015. “We’re hoping they won’t take it against us. Really, you can’t trademark a ball pit. It’s everywhere. For us it’s too vague. It’s too wide.”
“[It’s just] balls anyway,” she said.
Thus, she and her partners — Tasha Reyes, JM Iver and Nick Powers — went on with the project, taking only to Facebook (“We wanted to minimise our risk.”) to promote a concept: a coffee shop cum adult ball pit rented by the hour.
According to Ms. Lacap, her New York-based friends “went” to the New York installation “and then took a picture.” That picture, which featured foreigners, became an online success. Ball Pit Manila got up to 9,000 likes in one day and in the next few days came a deluge of bookings that filled up March and April. The keywords that captioned the pretty shots also helped: “biggest” and “coolest” sounded attractive.
“By the time we went viral,” she narrated, “there were already so much bookings that we were sure we’d hit our ROI (return on investment) even before we open.”
‘STOLEN’ But that picture, which has already been deleted from Ball Pit Manila’s official page and replaced with new ones (“We wanted to use our own pictures, not taken from [New York]”), is another story.
In an e-mail to BusinessWorld on Feb. 26, Karen Welman, a founding partner and the chief compliance officer of Pearlfisher, cried: “intellectual property theft.”
“Their friends did not take these photos, they are the photos of my staff, shot for our own personal use,” she claimed. She countered the anecdote that Ms. Lacap’s New York-based friends took the photos and sent them back to Manila. “Everyone that attended both the New York venue and London venue signed a disclaimer and a copyright form,” Ms. Welman said.
She added that Pearlfisher has issued a cease and desist legal letter, while YouTube has taken down the “stolen films” which Ball Pit Manila used for its promotional video. She laments that there appears to have “such disregard for copyright and trademark.”
“They have stolen images, films, and now they are going to steal money of clients for an experience they don’t own,” she added.
She explained: “One of my strategists suggested the idea [for a ball pit] and I agreed to do it with him. Once we started digging we found the balloon exhibition — which was not the same.”
Ms. Welman, who has been named one of the Top 10 Global Female Inventors in Singapore and has patented inventions including a range of temperature-regulating baby clothes featuring NASA-developed fabrics, also added that safety is a “massive issue” in Ball Pit Manila’s version of Jump In!.
“We had to have staff monitor and keep safe all activities,” she said about her agency’s installation. “I can’t believe hot coffee and a ball pool will not have its fair share of accidents, not to mention any dangerous jumps that I have already seen occurring on their new video. Sadly, they will have some horrible safety problems.”
The balls in Jump In! are not cheap — they are 81,000 “motion sensor and soft white balls” especially built for the installation. Ball Pit Manila’s are made of plastic.
There’s another stark difference: Pearlfisher mounted the installation for charity.
Donations accepted from Jump In’s guests — £1 each — went to Right to Play, an organisation working with volunteers and partners to use sport and play to enhance child development in areas of disadvantage.
“Perhaps the entrepreneurs would consider a little less stealing and a little more giving?,” was how Ms. Welman concluded her e-mail.
The owners of Ball Pit Manila seem keen on soldiering on after it officially opened on Tuesday, cease and desist letter notwithstanding. After all, they have a lot of balls.
Eighty-thousand plastic ones, to be exact.
Originally written by Pola Esguerra del Monte for Business World.