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Gimme 5… art prints that include registered trademarks

giacomo is the proud owner of a unique collection: a large number of art prints (silkscreened) that break trademark law. I’m pretty happy to feature this nice artworks in a “gimme5” special, and to ask some short questions to our young collector.

lv child by beejoir

rene gagnon

“shell blood for oil” by beejoir

james cauty

(1) how come do you have a collection of art prints that infringe trademark law?
Well, trademarks are a big part of my life as I work in the Intellectual Property field! So, when I started collecting art prints I was fascinated by the use of trademarks in so many prints and I started to concentrate my purchases on them.

(2) for an artist, is it legal to reproduce trademarks (or other copyrights) in his own creations?
This isn’t certainly a yes/no question! It is debated if the use of a trademark by an artist could be allowed. In a nutshell: the law changes from country to country but, generally speaking, some kind of “fair use” is usually recognized if the mark is not used in the business. The question is therefore if selling prints bearing such trademarks is or not some kind of business… believe me, these prints are definitely expensive!!!

(3) what do companies do, with regard to these little (or not so little) infringements? do they usually sue the artist?
If a trademark holder does not enforce its rights, this may end up in the loss of the rights themselves, as the marks may be considered abandoned or even generic.
However, there are different ways to handle infringements carried out by artists. In my opinion, as far as there is no concrete commercial use, there is no actual risk for the trademark owner.
To make some examples, as far as I know, James Cauty had some bad exchange of correspondence with Warner Bros for some of his works while Disney never bothered acting against him for other works infringing its rights on Mickey Mouse.
Louis Vuitton, instead, on the one hand never acted against Beejoir and his “LV Child” but, on the other hand, made a lot of noise in the case with Nadia Plesner, a Danish artist using a logo confusingly similar with the “LV monogram” for an artwork on t-shirts sold for supporting a non-profit organization in Darfur. Well, in the latter case it is true that the artist was selling t-shirts, but I’m not sure LV made the right move suing the artist!

97 comments
  1. trademarks says: 24/11/20085:01 am

    If the trademark is used to criticize, comment or parody, then it should be “fair use.” If the trademark is instead for purely or predominantly commercial purposes, then there probably going to be a problem. At any rate, the pictures you posted are great.

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