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May 8, 2010

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Patent -- the soul of Italian design

Classic patented Italian design in fashion, food, furniture and transport is on display at Tongji University, which is known for its schools of design, architecture and urban planning.

The exhibition of both icons and novelties features more than 50 items granted patents over the past 100 years. All were legally protected.

It includes many everyday items we take for granted and tells the fascinating stories behind them.

The show "Drawing and Design -- Italian Patents and Creativity" runs through August 31 and is part of Italy's World Expo activities, extending to Yangpu District, home of Tongji University.

The district is promoting the creative design industry.

The exhibition is sponsored by Tongji University, the Italian Values Initiative Foundation and the Italian Trade Commission.

Patents arose in the trading city of Venice in the late 15th century and the concept of protecting creativity -- as part of economic competitiveness -- is rooted deeply in culture and history.

The exhibition emphasizes intellectual property and how creative ideas are carefully developed into famous products. It offers abundant and meticulous drawings, diagrams and certificates from the Italian Patent and Trademark Office.

A 580-page catalogue -- a work of art in itself -- documents every item, from Ferragamo shoes to Pirelli tires and Olivetti typewriters. Many of the original documents are published for the first time; a number of original advertising posters are reproduced in color; critical essays are included.

The exhibition includes the Vanity Fair armchair, Borsalino hat, Nutella chestnut cream, Domina pressure cooker, Brevetto coffee machine, Arca lamp, Boma door handle and many other items -- from inspiration and drawing board to commercial production.

"The initiative to hold an exhibition on Italian design at Tongji University stems from the long-standing bond of friendship linking the Italian Trade Commission and Tongji University," says Umberto Vattani, president of the Italian Trade Commission.

It can contribute to making the area an important design center in Asia.

"Chinese students are talented and people should understand that designs from the talented should be safeguarded and protected," says Vattani. "While there is so much to share, the best Chinese design is like Chinese cuisine -- it's genuine, not an imitation."

The exhibition was very popular at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome last winter.

"The exhibit promotes the combination of Italian design and the design capacity of Tongji University," says Jin Xingming, director of Yangpu District. "It can help inject new technical power to the design industry cluster around Tongji and make positive contributions to Yangpu."

Creativity at the service of industrial production is the starting point of the exhibition.

Visitors discover how familiar daily-use objects that we take for granted are actually the result of a creative idea and design process -- with legal protections for the creator.

The earliest patents at the exhibition date from the early 20th century, the most recent from 2009.

Each exhibit features its patent, model, trademark or invention certificate.

"From these designs, I realize how much research, study and innovation goes into products for our daily use," says He Zhong, a senior student at Tongji University.

The journey back into the history of products also features many advertising posters. The exhibition catalogue in Italian, English and Chinese describes all the items and includes critical essays.

Writing in the catalogue, Tongji University President Pei Gang says that China does not lack creative minds and imaginative college students, but the country still has far to go in transforming ideas into products and improving protection of intellectual property.

"We have to learn from countries with successful experience in these fields," Pei writes. "Imagination is the soul of designs, and inspiration is the catalyst. Design is an exciting profession of great vitality. Hopefully, this exhibition will enable our college students to unleash their creativity and inspiration and to contribute to the development of the design industry of China."

Italian design exhibition

Date: through August 31, 9am-7pm

Venue: Zonghe Building, Tongji University, 1239 Siping Rd

Admission: Free


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