Khazanah-backed Cenergi SEA, a sustainable energy solutions company, has come under the spotlight for an alleged idea theft after the founder of design company Dxclusive, Diana Chew, called out the company for copyright issues.
Chew explained that the company had pitched for a Cenergi tender at the end of July involving a booth for the International Sustainable Energy Summit 2022. According to her, it was "a very rushed project" and following the first round of proposal, Chew and her team realised that "the client had no idea on the budget as well as the concept it wanted". Hence, the team shared some ideas and worked overnight to provide a proposal in two days.
Cenergi loved the proposed design and Dxclusive then moved on to the procurement stage, Chew said. However, she added that "due to the tremendous price squeeze", the team was unable to take on the job. "About a week later, we found out that the client took our design and asked the other vendor to copy it," she alleged in the Facebook post.
According to her, Cenergi's design bore 95% similarity to the one proposed by Dxclusive, from the dimensions and colours to poster mapping. Upon contacting Cenergi, Chew was told that the company did not copy Dxclusive's design.
"I contacted the client, telling them that what they are doing is very unethical and they are stealing other people's work. I said I will sue them if they proceeded. [The client, however,] said I cannot sue and I said that our proposal and quotation clearly state that the design rights belong to us," Chew explained. She also told the client that it is an understood practice within the industry that companies have no right to use their design or creative ideas if they do not work with the vendor that created the design.
Cenergi has since issued a Facebook statement, stating that it was made aware of allegations surrounding the copyright issues raised by Chew on Facebook against the company. "We are assessing these allegations and our next steps, to determine the best course of action," the company said, adding:
Cenergi SEA takes a very serious view of these matters and will take all the necessary actions to investigate. Further updates will be provided as soon as possible.
A+M has reached out to Cenergi for additional comment. Copyright issues are a problem the marketing and advertising industry and stories of idea theft are not new. In 2018, 4As Malaysia even slammed clients demanding ownership of IP during the RFP stage. This include ideas, plans and work product described in the proposals regardless of which agency wins the pitch. The 4As previously said that this is "tantamount" to clients demanding ideas without compensation and considers the practice "unethical and unfair" and calls for the practice to "cease immediately". It also previously advised agencies to not participate in RFPs which demand them to give away intellectual property rights to strategy and ideas they present in new business pitches.