Banksy loses trademark battle of famous artwork with greeting card company

By: Express Web Desk | Updated: September 17, 2020 5:28:48 pm

A worker walks past “Love Is in the Air”, a screen print on paper, by British artist Banksy, a day before the unveiling of an exhibition in Rome, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. The exhibition opens on Sept. 8 and runs until April 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

After losing a two-year legal battle with a small greeting card company, anonymous UK-based street artist Banksy has been stripped of a trademark for one of his most famous artworks. An EU panel ruled against the artist stating that he could not be considered the owner of an artwork when his identity is still a mystery, the Guardian reported.

The artwork, titled ‘Rage, the Flower Thrower’, first appeared on a wall in Jerusalem in 2005 and shows a masked man, dressed in what is traditionally considered riot gear, throwing a bouquet of flowers. The graphic was later used by UK card company Full Colour Black on one of its greeting cards.

This prompted Banksy to successfully apply for an EU trademark for the artwork in 2014. Claiming that the artist was not entitled to the trademark since he was not using it for trade or branding, Full Colour Black challenged it in court, the Independent reported.

Following a two-year legal dispute, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) panel finally ruled against Banksy’s trademark. “Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous and, for the most part, to paint graffiti on other people’s property without their permission, rather than to paint it on canvases or his own property,” the panel said, according to a report by the Guardian.

After he was challenged by the greeting card company, Banksy set up his own brick and mortar gift shop called ‘Gross Domestic Product’ in south London last year, where he sold versions of his artwork. In an interview given around that time, the artist admitted that he had only opened the store to fulfill trademark categories.

“A greetings card company is contesting the trademark I hold to my art,” Banksy then said, the Guardian reported. “And attempting to take custody of my name, so they can sell their fake Banksy merchandise legally.”

According to the EUIPO panel, Banksy’s gift shop undermined his case as it sold “impractical and offensive” merchandise. The wares on display in the store include disco balls made out of police helmets and replicas of the vest worn by British rapper Stormzy during the Glastonbury music festival in 2019.

Aaron Wood, the attorney representing Full Colour Black, said that the EU panel’s ruling was “devastating” for the artist. “He will need to consider whether any of his trademarks for his artworks are actually valid,” Wood told the Independent.

Banksy has long been a vocal critic of intellectual property rights. He once famously said that “copyright is for losers”.

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