Sept. 16, 2005 -- Ever think about what you can do with everyday products? Here's a clever idea. You can make a couch out of Fed Ex boxes, or a desk, or even a bed. In fact, you could follow Jose Avila's lead and furnish your entire apartment with furniture made from Fed Ex boxes. But if you do, you better not tell anyone about it, because Fed Ex might come after you with their lawyers.
Necessity is often the mother of invention, and Avila needed a cheap way to furnish his apartment. When a friend of his sent him a picture of a desk made of Fed Ex boxes, he was inspired to make one himself.
The boxes were free, and he had a lot of them at his house since he did a lot of shipping for his job. So, he kept building. He made an L-shaped desk, a chair, a small bookshelf, a dining room set, and a bed -- all of Fed Ex boxes and padded envelopes.
He was proud of his handmade furniture, and thought he could show other people who were broke how to do it themselves. So, he created a Web site called FedExfurniture.com.
"I thought I could go out there and maybe inspire somebody and show people that, 'You know what? It's okay to be ghetto when you're in a bind and feeling down. Go out there and be creative and you can get by," he said.
But the site earned him a phone call and threatening letters from Fed Ex, ordering him to "cease and desist" and requesting that he "transfer registration of the domain name fedexfurniture.com to Fed Ex."
Avila was stunned. "I really didn't have enough money to go out and buy furniture and they're over here threatening to sue me into oblivion," he said.
Even though Jose never offered to sell the furniture he made , he received legal threats saying he was "commercially exploiting" Fed Ex, and that the Web site "willfully infringed" Fed Ex's rights. And because he used the free boxes for furniture, not shipping, Fed Ex said, he "did not obtain the packaging lawfully."
But Avila, who said he does a lot of shipping, said he already had the boxes lying around. "I really don't see that I'm stealing the boxes. ... How can you steal something that's free?" he asked.
Fed Ex wouldn't agree to be interviewed for this story. Instead, they wrote "20/20" saying, "This is not about the furniture, but rather about Mr. Avila respecting our rights."
C'mon ! All over the Internet are photos of things like furniture made out of beer cans, gladiator costumes made of Coors labels, and toy planes made of Pepsi cans. Sports Illustrated did a spread with models in bikinis made from Mexican beer bottle caps. Designer Lizzy Gardiner made an evening gown out of American Express Gold Cards and wore it to the Oscars.
Fed Ex says Avila's Web site must come down, but Avila doesn't want to back down. "I feel like if I take the site down, it'll show companies that it's okay to push around the little guy and just toss lawsuits at somebody to get them to take down the information that you don't like."
Right. So, three cheers for Avila and his silly furniture.
And to Fed Ex -- whose shipping service I love -- I say, Give Me a Break!