Bench accused of plagiarism by student, says it is willing to settle

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We’ve been taught in school that love begets respect, but in Bench’s latest fiasco, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

As part of its “Love Local” campaign, a recent window display in its Glorietta branch featured mannequins kitted out in Filipiniana-esque gear.

In the background were posters and signages about the Philippines, including an artwork by third year UP Fine Arts student Glendford Lumbao.

Called “Letras y Figuras: ABaKalsaDa Letters of the Street”, it depicts people, wearing local attire and holding native props, forming the letters of the alphabet.

It was a project for his Visual Design 1 class, which he posted on Facebook in September 2014 and on the online platform for artists called Behance.

Surely, a student would be thrilled when his work is exposed to the public by a big label, right?

Not really.

According to Lumbao, Bench never notified him or asked for his permission. His work, he said, was stolen.

He felt violated and disrespected.

So on June 25, he posted a photo of the display window on his Facebook account, and that’s where he complained.

“Bakit A to F Lang? Dapat nilahat niyo na,” he captioned the photo.


OMG Bench/ lifestyle + clothing bakit A to F lang? dapat nilahat niyo na! #dinagpaalamyey

Posted by Glendford Lumbao on Thursday, 25 June 2015

It went viral. Eventually reaching the ears of Bench.

On June 27, he received a call from someone who introduced herself as part of Bench’s legal team. The person offered an apology and set an appointment to meet in person. 

“Madalas po silang tumatawag at mag-text. They said sorry about the incident tapos gusto nila makipag-meet to settle things privately,” Lumbao told Coconuts Manila.

Coconuts Manila reached out to Bench and met with its PR Jojo Liamzon and legal supervisor Rachelle Posadas this afternoon. We would discover that Posadas was the one who’s been getting in touch with Lumbao all along.

Both confirmed that Bench had set Jun 29 to to meet with Lumbao, but the student failed to make an appearance. Why did he back out? His professor advised him to not meet with Bench until legal counsel is sought.

“Yung illustration na kinuha nila is not for sale. Ibang usapan na yung kasi plagiarism na,” he said.

Bench traced the mistake to a member of its visual and merchandising team. “We don’t condone plagiarism,” said Bench’s Liamzon. “When you hire somebody, an artist or a writer, you expect them to churn in original work, without having to check and recheck.”

Posadas adds that Bench requires its employees to attend seminars and lectures, and that covers plagiarism. “So we expect, of course, original work from them,” she said.

According to Liamzon, when their in-house artist passed the work, they believed it to be his original work.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t. “The employee admitted that and he tendered his resignation, which we accepted,” confirmed Liamzon.

What Bench is worried about is Lumbao. He hasn’t replied to any of their texts. “We learned from the billboard incident, that’s why we addressed it immediately,” Liamzon said. “We are willing to compensate and settle the matter fairly.”


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