Here's a man who, in every sense of the phrase, has been thinking outside the box. The FedEx box. Hundreds, actually. Made into furniture furniture...

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Here’s a man who, in every sense of the phrase, has been thinking outside the box.

The FedEx box. Hundreds, actually. Made into furniture.

Now Federal Express is mad, alleging trademark and copyright infringement. And net users are alternately calling Jose Avila, the so-called “FedEx furniture” guy, a hero and a thief.

A local antique dealer wants to bring Avila and his work — both residing in Arizona — here.

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It all started in June, when 21-year-old Avila moved from California to Arizona to take a computer programming job. The move meant his California roommates lost Avila’s share of the rent, which didn’t sit well with him. So to cover both his old and new rents,
Avila opted to spend almost nothing on furniture.

Acutely aware of his friend’s predicament, Tom Enlow, of Seattle, e-mailed Avila a photo of a desk he had constructed out of 30 FedEx boxes.

“I thought it was ingenious,” Avila recalls. And so he followed suit, employing packaging tape, packaging labels, plastic shipping sleeves, tubes and boxes. It took him a couple of hours to build an L-shaped desk that weighs nearly 47 pounds.

Then came a dining table and two chairs. A bed. A 9-foot-plus couch. The fact that all the pieces functioned well reinforced Avila’s belief that the shipping company, which he had been using regularly to overnight documents and various computer equipment, was reliable.

“If I can put my weight on a couple of boxes I definitely felt comfortable putting things in them,” Avila used to say.

But when Avila went online, creating www.fedexfurniture.com, complete with assorted pictures of said furniture, FedEx lawyers sent a “cease and desist” letter to Avila’s Internet service provider alleging trademark and copyright infringement. Avila took down his site briefly until an attorney with the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford University took up his case.

The dispute continues with FedEx, in an Aug. 3 letter, arguing Avila “is likely to dilute … the FedEx mark.”

Avila acknowledges being both creative and practical but the intention behind his Web site, he explains, is to inspire anyone who might have nothing or is just feeling stuck.

Thus, his moniker: “It’s OK to be ghetto.”

After viewing the Web site, Dennis Eros invited Avila and his furniture to participate in next month’s Sand Point Antiques and Design market. “Very clever,” Eros said. “The kind of thing MoMA would take.”

No word yet on the furniture’s destination. But it’s going somewhere. Avila, who also blogs, was recently in California visiting his former roommates who are now packing up and moving to Seattle, which means Avila’s financial obligation to them is now gone.

“It feels good not to have to pay double rent,” Avila blogged earlier this month. “Now I get to go shopping for new furniture.”

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916