A Squabble Over Rubber Duckie Rights in Pittsburgh

Yup, you read that right. This is oh so un-rubber-duckie-like! But, yes, there’s a squabble over rubber duckie rights, specifically the right to sell the image of rubber duckies.

Let me set the stage, from the rubber duckie’s perspective.


Take a gander… a buncha rubber duckies.


And this, a rubber duckie, right?


How about this? Another rubber duckie?


The world of rubber duckies is a happy one. All stripes and breeds, all rubber duckies, a duckie for everyone, all swimming skiing nicely together. (Thanks to Duck Show for skiing duckies really skiing!)

The BIG Rubber Duckie Arrives in the U.S. This Weekend!


 As you have no doubt heard’ the humungous forty-foot inflatable  rubber duckie is coming to the U.S. this weekend, Pittsburgh being the chosen city. The Cultural Trust made it possible, and the waterfront is poised for a great celebration.

From Studio Florentijn Hofman (The Netherlands):


The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t have a political connotation. The friendly, floating, four-story-high Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them. The duck has been on display in Amsterdam, Lommel (Belgium), Osaka, Sydney Harbour, Sao Paulo and Hong Kong and arrives in the US for the first time for the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts.

Launch event: Friday, September 27 at the Allegheny River


Claims of healing properties aside, Netherland’s artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck Project is aimed at bringing duckie-like smiles. And it has, mainly. There have been a few skirmishes overseas and now, with the arrival imminent, we have our own.

Official Merchandise Only

There just happens to be a cartoon museum in Pittsburgh appropriately named “Toonseum” and a cartoonist by the name of Joe Wos. I first learned of Joe a few weeks ago when I was asked through Celebriducks to send one of my Quilting Rubber Duckies to him for consideration to be in an exhibit called “Ducks” which they were putting together to celebrate the arrival of The Rubber Duck Project in Pittsburgh. (Thank you Joe!)

To commemorate the event Joe did what cartoonists do, he drew a duck. And had it put on a t-shirt. And offered it for sale to raise money for Toonseum. That’s when the Trust got testy. I won’t copy what they wrote, but their message was that they feel they have brought The Duck Project to the States and they should be the sole source of duck merchandise available during the event.

Below is Joe’s response. No, he is not backing down. He’s even calling himself a “troublemaker” as you can see on his web site, where you can also buy the Quack N’At t-shirt. (It’s a play on the Pittsburghian shortening of “and that”.)

Squabble Over Rubber Duckie Rights


Squabble Over Rubber Duckie Rights: You Be the Judge

More pictures:

This is Florentjin Hofman’s rubber duck:


Here’s an official rubber duck sold by the Trust: ($10 and here’s the link)

Squabble Over Rubber Duckie Rights

Here’s the t-shirt  Joe Wos is selling:

Squabble Over Rubber Duckie Rights

Okay, from the Trust’s standpoint, are they requesting that their cease and desist (which they did send to Joe) pertain to any rubber ducks or duck items? Or just ones that look like The Rubber Duck Project duck?

What about this one?


And where? Just at the venue? What is the venue—all of Pittsburgh?

Rubber Duckies Just Wanna Create Smiles

The bottom line is, does anyone own the image of the rubber duck? If so, one would think there’d have been a lot of bickering going on between the various makers of the duckies in the first photo and all the hundreds of other designs for the last bunch of decades.

Duckies fit into what is known as the public domain. Which means there’s a duckie to tickle every funny bone and touch every heart.  And that makes rubber duckies very, very happy because their goal is to, as Florentijn Hofman wrote, make people happy. “Let’s spread some smiles,” they squeak as they waddle off and plop into the bathtub.


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