You apparently don't mess with Dale Chihuly. The glass artist from Tacoma is apparently as tough as his eye patch would let on.
That's at least the conclusion I came to after getting a letter last week from Chihuly's people, with a subject line that said simply, "Trademark Infringement." The reason is this item New Times published in our Best Of Broward-Palm Beach edition. The item awarded Sage Oyster Bar as the Best New Restaurant in Broward. In it, one of our writers incorrectly wrote that the chandelier inside Sage was a work by Chihuly.
The item apparently got the attention of Michael Tobiason, who identifies himself in this June 23 letter as vice president/general counsel of Chihuly Studios in Seattle. Tobiason wrote:
"You should know that this is not a Chihuly chandelier. If you believe it is, please provide documented evidence. If not, please immediately update the articles to remove any claim that the artwork is a Chihuly chandelier, and print a correction immediately..."
Just to be sure, I spoke with Sage chef and owner Laurent Tasic today, who said he wasn't sure who made the chandelier. "We got the chandelier from a lighting company," he said with his heavy French accent. "It is very beautiful, but I don't know, who is this Chihuly?"
In Tobiason's letter, he explained that the studio needs to protect the "integrity of Chuhuly works" by rooting out improper references quickly. He ended with this line:
"We look forward to your response by July 15, 2009."
Now I'm no barrister, but it sounds to me like Tobiason meant business with that last line. Threats or not, we always correct our mistakes, so I changed the online version today to remove the Chihuly reference, and our print edition will carry a correction this week.
Similarly, the second paragraph of the Miami Herald's recent review of Sage by Rochelle Koff refers to the "Chihuly chandelier." Looks like we won't be the only paper getting a threatening letter from Dale Chihuly.