Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi has fired an employee who used a 3D artist’s work without permission in the company’s promotional campaign, according to a statement by the company on Wednesday.
The Verge reported on Tuesday that Xiaomi used three pieces of art from British 3D artist Peter Tarka in advertisements to promote its devices in Spain.
Tarka told The Verge that he created one of the pieces in May 2018 as part of his Installations collection. Xiaomi’s designer just erased some of the elements from the piece and replaced them with the company’s products, according to the report.
Tarka said he was “100% sure” Xiaomi had used his work and no one from Xiaomi ever reached out about licensing or commissioning his art.
Xiaomi said in the statement that it had dismissed the employee who is responsible with “immediate effect,” and it had reached out to Tarka to apologize.
The content has been removed from Xiaomi Spain’s website.
Xiaomi announced its global expansion plan in 2014 after its China sales slowed due to market saturation and competition from Chinese companies such as Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei. But intellectual property disputes are proving to be an ongoing hurdle in its global expansion plan.
In December 2014, India’s Delhi High Court issued a temporary order and blocked Xiaomi from importing, advertising, and selling smartphones that infringed on eight patents held by Ericsson.
In December 2015, the company was sued by American company Blue Spike LLC, which claimed that Xioami had infringed on its patents with devices such as its Mi 5 and Mi 5 Plus smartphones. The company had been planning to enter the US market prior to the lawsuit but delayed the move until late 2018, according to media reports.
Before it went public on the Hong Kong Exchange in June 2018, a report by research firm Counterpoint said Xiaomi’s business model could be easily replicated by bigger players such as Huawei or Samsung because of its lack of investment in its own intellectual property or research and development.
Xiaomi said in the Wednesday statement that it would further strengthen its internal approval processes to prevent the situation from happening again.