When John Hardy first arrived in Bali in 1975 on a post-studies around-the-world trip, he probably had no idea that the island would become his home. Shortly thereafter, he became interested in local jewellery, but years later, as his interest turned into a profitable business, the Canadian-born former art student strived to make his company eco-friendly and to align it with the aspirations of the Balinese. The concept became known as 'sustainable luxury'. Something has gone very sour of late, however. Two years ago, Mr Hardy sold the company and, although he remained involved as a consultant, he no longer pulls the strings. The company - still called John Hardy Ltd - boasts worldwide sales worth millions of dollars and has offices in New York and Bangkok. Its headquarters is in Hong Kong and its manufacturing base in Bali, where some 800 people work for PT Karya Tangan Indah, the local subsidiary. Among the values Mr Hardy has been keen to pass on to the new management is the importance of 'looking after the local people' and 'looking after the copyright'. However, those two maxims are clashing and the name of John Hardy is being sullied in legal battles in which the company is accused of stealing designs and physical intimidation. At the centre of the dispute is Ketut Deni Aryasa, a jewellery designer who worked for PT Karya Tangan Indah from 2000 until 2003. He left on good terms, as confirmed by Juliana, a representative of PT Karya Tangan Indah, who like many Indonesians has one name. The problems began when Mr Aryasa started producing jewellery allegedly similar to John Hardy Ltd's copyrighted styles. Over the past 18 months, the dispute has grown, with lawsuits in the United States and Indonesia, and alleged physical threats. In the past few weeks, the issue has gone beyond the courts and is a hot topic of debate in Bali with some labelling John Hardy Ltd as nothing more than a profiteer. The lawsuits began on April 10, 2006, when John Hardy Ltd sued Mirka Melluzzo & Casamel Inc in New York for copyright infringement over jewellery produced in Bali by Mr Aryasa. Though that case was settled, Mr Aryasa's troubles continued when he joined another company, BaliJewel, which produces jewellery in Bali and sells it in the US. He claims he is being harassed and has filed a suit in the US against John Hardy Ltd and a countersuit in Bali seeking vindication that he is not infringing copyright. Both are ongoing. According to a copy of the lawsuit, viewed by The Bali Times, BaliJewel alleges that Mr Aryasa was subject to physical intimidation and that the firm's website was repeatedly taken down because of threats to companies hosting the site. The suit claims one incident occurred in early February last year at the designer's workshop in Denpasar, Bali's capital. 'A group of about 20 unidentified men arrived at Mr Aryasa's residence and studio. Without his consent, they entered his living room and confronted him, saying that they were from the Indonesian Copyright Office,' the lawsuit reads. 'One of them showed him a letter from PT Karya Tangan Indah accusing Mr Aryasa of copying John Hardy's jewellery designs, and in particular a design which John Hardy calls Batu Kali Kombinasi Motif. The Batu Kali Kombinasi Motif is, in fact, Mr Aryasa's own original jewellery design for BaliJewel, called Crocodile Motif.' BaliJewel also claims the intruders became violent, and when 'Aryasa's wife, then almost nine months pregnant, attempted to close the door to his private design room - where his jewellery inventory and design sketches were kept - they forced their way in, nearly knocking her down, and warned Mr Aryasa 'not to make any aggressive moves' or they would have him put in jail'. Mr Aryasa said that recently John Hardy Ltd had offered him US$30,000 to settle out of court, but he refused the money. Mrs Juliana did not comment on the alleged offer, but said that there was no violence during the police raid and that her company had the right to defend its work. She also acknowledged that John Hardy Ltd had filed a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit in the US and countersued BaliJewel for copyright infringement in Bali. Commenting on his ex-employer, Mr Aryasa said 'most of John Hardy Ltd's designs are actually Indonesian'. While awaiting the court rulings, Mr Aryasa is winning the battle of public opinion, at least in Indonesia, where it is turning into a call to arms by local artisans, who are being supported by some local art experts and politicians. During a gathering organised recently in Denpasar, the head of the Silver Jewellery Artisans Association, Nyoman Patra, said that the group was very worried that 'foreigners' had copyrighted hundreds of the country's and the island's traditional jewellery designs and, therefore, weakened the legal standing of the locals. He specifically mentioned the case of Mr Aryasa, telling The Jakarta Post that 'Batu Kali Kombinasi motif is based on a traditional Balinese motif'. The association claimed to have ascertained that some 600 motifs and designs, all based on Indonesia's traditional arts, have been registered by John Hardy Ltd and copyrighted. 'And there are 1,200 more designs that are still in the process of copyright certification,' Mr Patra added. During that same gathering of local associations, the artisans put out a joint statement: 'The motifs were created by our ancestors and have been used for hundreds of years, and the designs now belong to the Balinese, collectively.' Gde Sumarjaya Linggih, a Balinese legislator, has said that he would assist the artisans in bringing their concerns to the central government, if they so wished. Mrs Juliana, in the meantime, says that 'local artisans should prove who invented the designs', while Damien Dernoncourt, president of John Hardy Ltd, rejected the assertion that his company could not lay claim to indigenous Balinese designs. 'These are also emblematic of the highly successful John Hardy Ltd, which sells its jewellery in some of the world's leading stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and has graced the pages of such high-end fashion magazines as Vogue, where pop icon Madonna has posed wearing the Balinese ultra-stylish creations,' he told The Bali Times. Mr Hardy could not be reached for comment on the issue. While his company has been no stranger to lawsuits abroad, it has always prided itself on its good relationship with the Balinese. The flamboyant 59-year-old, whose parties are legendary on the island, has often made headlines for positive initiatives like the 'sustainable advertising' campaign, which, in 2006, saw his company offsetting the carbon emissions associated with its yearly print ads by planting bamboo on the nearby isle of Nusa Penida. One could well imagine that the last thing he would ever want was to be accused of exploiting Bali and its people.