28 January 2010

Indonesia, Armani, and a Garuda...

This is one of those times where you sit back in your chair, shake your head, and wonder out loud whether Indonesian politicians have anything better to do. I understand national pride, I understand the need to protect cultural heritage, and I understand insult.

However, I do not understand why you would want to make a mountain out of a molehill on this issue. Unless, of course you wanted to distract the people's attention from more pressing and important matters such as providing a clear explanation of the Bank Century Bailout so that even non-economic types can understand the need, as the government saw it, to bail out a bank of Bank Century's size during a global financial crisis.

Perhaps there is a need to distract people's attention from the shenanigans going on in the Antasari Azhar trial for pre-meditated murder of a love rival. Or maybe it is as simple as needing to distract people's attention away from the faltering president whose 100-day agenda is looking increasingly unlikely to transpire as opposed to just expiring in the sense of dying where it lay.

So, what is this mountain out of a molehill?

Some members of the House of Representatives (usually representing no one but themselves) decided that they were going to pursue Armani for producing a T-Shirt which allegedly desecrates the national symbol of Indonesia. The offending shirt, or at least the image off of it is in the photo above (photo courtesy of Multibrand), has caused quite a stir. The claims, including one from the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Patrialis Akbar, are that the Garuda Pancasila is patented by Indonesia. Now, if this were true, then the image on the offending Armani t-shirt would need to be more than just similar, wouldn't it?

In my mind it would have to be unmistakeably the Garuda Pancasila that everyone associates with being the national symbol of Indonesia. My guess is that most people throughout the world might have some trouble recognizing their own national symbols let alone those of other countries. Yet, in any event, this hardly seems to be a breach of patent (considering patents are for inventions and I am pretty sure that Indonesia did not invent the Garuda). It is also unlikely a breach of trademark.

If Armani was an Indonesian company, then the most likely law to pursue the company under would be the recently passed Law No. 24 of 2009 which deals with matters relating to national symbols, among other matters. Unfortunately, Law No. 24 of 2009 is not likely to have much extra-territorial application if the idea is to pursue Armani overseas. It is also unlikely to succeed in pursuing Armani stores that sell the goods in Indonesia either.

Brett over at Spruiked takes a peak at this issue in his usual forthright manner, and it is worth a read.

The real question is does the use of the Garuda in this way really offend the sensibilities of the majority of Indonesians? My guess is, No! The common sense of the vast majority of Indonesians need not be questioned. And, it is an unfortunate thing that this vast majority is not in the House of Representatives, because then Indonesians and those of us with an interest in Indonesian affairs would not have to read such drivel as a few members of the House of Representatives exploring the possibility of suing a fashion label for using an image of a mythical creature.

Maybe Indonesians are, on the whole, proud that an image they associate with is used in such a way. It is worth noting that Armani has supposedly apologized for any offense it may have caused.

There really must be more important issues of governance to attend to, right?


H. Nizam said...


The politicians expect to gain popularity from the debate about two famous names Garuda & Armani.
Beside that, like you said they want to divert people's attention from all the bad things like Bank Century.

Rob Baiton said...


On the popularity front. They might be expecting a little too much. I happen to think that Indonesians are a little bit smarter than to fall for that.

Brett said...

Thanks for the plug!

Peacocks - every last one of them!


tere616 said...

I don't think that they want to distract people's attention from Bank Century or Antasari or 100 days of SBY agenda.

They just want to get people's attention and be seen on TV as the dumbest representative of Indonesian House Representative.

For me, after all the drama shown in TV by Indonesian House Representative, Century's issue is only a political issue.

They were so dumb, they even don't know how to address the issue, to raise a question. They fought amongs themselves :-(

So, back to Armani, I don't think most people will pay attention to it, especially with the latest economic situation.

Rob Baiton said...


I enjoy reading your musings, and I am guessing that there are others out there that would enjoy them as well!

Peacocks? Bad rap for peacocks don't you think?

Rob Baiton said...


Nah, I still think that it is about distracting attention from more serious matters. Only because they would not have to do this for people to see them as being a little disconnected from reality.

In this day and age, anything can be made into an issue if you know how to play the technology game.

eve said...

by chance i found your blog, and it's great.
honestly i found that armani's garuda copy is cool. i am an indonesian, and i don't think armani violated my pride as an indonesian. perhaps the politicians wanted to distract the nation's attention on what it is going on in indonesia. or perhaps they simply don't know how to prioritize the issues

Dino said...

First, I did not vote for them Rob.So as an Indonesian, I would like to disassociate my view from them.

Definitely a PR gimmick on their part. For most, it only shows their low esteem on themselves and on how un-confident they are about Indonesian heritage.

But why Armani? And not the popular "I love Indonesia" t-shirt that replaces the heart with the Garuda sold on the streets of Malioboro Yogya?

I rest my case.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Dino...

I don't think the point of the post was to label all Indonesians courtesy of their elected representatives :)

Like it or not, Indonesia is a democracy (some might argue to what degree, but that is another issue altogether) so you get what you vote for in the broadest possible sense of the idea.

I am not sure that it is a PR gimmick per se, but the idea of patenting the Garuda and then making this a big issue was silly.

However, it is an issue that disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. I should thank you though for posting a comment here as it might inspire me to follow-up and see if anything more happened in this instance.

Maybe the "I Love Indonesia" campaign falls within the scope of right to copy rather than copyright ;)