In simultaneous raids, Kenneth Cobonpue runs after furniture copies–a first | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

A COBONPUE imitation being sold in a roadside furniture shop in Barangay Pasong Langka, Silang, Cavite GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

STA. ROSA, Laguna—RSK Furniture would have been another nondescript shop along the national highway to Tagaytay City, except that it allegedly sells products being passed off as those of renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue.


Lawyer Ann Edillon of the Bengzon Negre Untalan (BNU) law firm quickly identified six original Cobonpue designs that were blatantly copied among the 30 or so units found in RSK’s roughly 100-square-meter display space when agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) swooped down last Tuesday, Dec. 10.


These include the Noodle, Dragnet and Croissant armchairs, the Yoda barstool, and the Voyage and Yin and Yang daybeds.


Many consider the Voyage to be Cobonpue’s most iconic piece after the design gained global prominence a few years back when popular American actor Brad Pitt bought one. (Pitt is said to have acquired other Cobonpue furniture since then.)


Other Cobonpue works eventually found their way to Hollywood sets, including that for the film “Ocean’s 13,” where Pitt also starred.


Prominently shown on a wall was RSK’s commercial vision: “We costumized all kind of furniture” (sic). Shopkeeper Ivy Angeles identified the establishment’s owner as a certain Elmer Pamintuan, who she said was in Pampanga at the time of the raid.


NBI agents served a warrant to search the shop to Pamintuan’s son, Ron.


One agent who asked for anonymity said all copies of Cobonpue’s works would be confiscated and used as evidence when a formal charge of copyright infringement is filed in court.


Insiders believe that Cobonpue’s move to prosecute those pirating his designs is a first in the country. No known designer, painter or artist has brought to court an individual or parties accused of copying or faking their works.




Cobonpue has had his works hailed in international magazines and has won design awards abroad. The heartache felt by a creator being plagiarized is not new to him.


The designer’s mother, Betty Cobonpue, “was a designer who produced very original furniture that was copied by many factories,” he recalled in a solicited e-mail statement.


“My experience against intellectual piracy goes way back (to when I was) a child… I saw how my mother lost sleep and suffered in silence, helpless because our laws then were inadequate in protecting her,” the designer added.


“Today, intellectual piracy is treated seriously in our country with determined leadership at the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) and our enforcement agencies,” he noted.


Cobonpue said he received reports of “copycats from Angeles (City in Pampanga) to Sta. Rosa” as early as three years ago.


Legal notices were served the businessmen behind these.


“A few of them have decided to settle amicably, but these two companies whom we raided (on Dec. 10) have blatantly ignored the offer to come to the table, so I have no choice but to

LAWYER Ann Edillon inspects a Cobonpue imitation in a roadside furniture shop in Cavite. PHOTO BY GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

resort to the legal process,” Cobonpue explained.


The designer vowed to “go all the way to prosecute them in court. This will hopefully serve as a warning to violators who copy not only original Filipino design but in other creative industries like fashion, music, film, literature and the fine arts. We promote ourselves as a creative destination and it’s only right that we protect our creators to encourage others to continually produce original designs.”


While some imitators would rather justify their business as the greatest form of flattery, Cobonpue said a blatant copy shows that those behind have no respect for the labor a designer undertakes in the creative process.


“There is unfortunately no formula for coming up with a design, and that’s why it takes a lot of sweat, hard work and literally pain to come up with something unique,” he said.


“Behind every design are dozens of other designers, engineers, craftsmen and marketing people to ensure it sees the light of day. It takes at least a year to produce a design. The copycat shortcuts all of these and feeds off our hard work and energy,” the designer added.


P17,000 barstool


Days before the raid, undercover agents went to RSK and purchased three pieces, including what the NBI agent recalled as a fake Yoda barstool that cost only P17,000.


The receipt issued by RSK would be among the prosecution’s evidence, he said.


“The actual cost of a Cobonpue runs to tens of thousand pesos so murang mura ito,” the agent noted.


A second NBI agent who also requested anonymity noted, however, that although the fakes looked authentic “sa unang tingin, these are made of inferior materials that are less durable compared to the real products of Mr. Cobonpue.”


“Look at this one,” he told Inquirer Lifestyle as he approached a red Yoda barstool.


“It is made of plastic that would eventually crack when placed under the sun for a long time,” the second agent said.


The first agent noted that the raid was conducted following a complaint from BNU, known in legal circles for specializing in intellectual property infringement cases, that there are shops blatantly calling attention to their products for being “Cobonpue copies.”


This is a clear copyright infringement based on provisions of the Intellectual Property Code, the first NBI agent quoted the law firm as saying.


A quick ocular of the desk that contained RSK’s business records showed a folder with the marking “Mr. Elmer Pamintuan,” a transparent plastic album with colored photocopies of Cobonpue pieces and one coffee-table book that featured the designer’s works.


There were also leather swatches and samples of rattan and abaca weaves where customers can choose from for made-to-order pieces.


“En route to this store, we noticed that there are other establishments selling fakes. So it’s possible we will conduct other raids, but this is subject to the discretion of our client,” Edillon told Inquirer Lifestyle.


NBI and BNU conducted a simultaneous raid in a showroom at the Market! Market! Mall in Taguig City when Edillon, et al. were in Sta. Rosa.


Cobonpue has two showrooms: one in Cebu City and another in Pasay Road, Makati City.



“Cobonpue’s designs can be purchased exclusively from these showrooms. These are the only places where you can purchase Kenneth Cobonpue designs. If you see them elsewhere, that’s already a red flag,” Edillon said.


“A fake costs substantially less. Sometimes they use the same materials, sometimes not. Of course the fake’s quality is way more inferior. The quality and craftsmanship, it’s gonna be way less,” she added.


“My mother taught me the value of being honest and original. She was copied left and right. I promised my mother that I would take up the cudgels for her when I grew up, and now it has come full circle,” Cobonpue said.


“I hope to inspire other young people to always create original design, protect it by law and bring pride to our country,” he said.

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