Banksy’s Intellectual Property Wins and Losses

source: PA Media, BBC

Is Intellectual Property Banksy’s friend or foe?

In September last year, we reported Banksy’s failure in securing his trademarks in a litigation with greetings card company Full Colour Black over renowned Flower Thrower artwork painted in Jerusalem

Nine months later, Banksy suffered yet another blow as the European Union intellectual property office cancelled yet another two trademarks belonging to the Bristol-based graffiti artist, making it Banksy’s fourth trademark cancelled by EUIPO. 

Radar Rat and Girl with an Umbrella has been ruled in favour of the same greetings card company, Full Colour Black, who utilises Banksy’s artwork for the sale of greeting cards. Two more artworks, Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be in Charge and Bomb Hugger, were also voided by EUIPO. 

Just a few days prior to EUIPO’s ruling, Banksy triumphed in Australia as the artist gained success in obtaining rights for two renowned works, Love Is In the Air and Girl with Balloon. Trademark success for Banksy meant that the two works will be legally protected from being reproduced as images used on goods to be sold, such as posters, clothing or even better – greeting cards. 

Banksy’s bid to prevent the commercialisation of his work is ironic as he has previously stated in his 2007 book Wall and Piece: ‘Copyright is for losers.’ The statement left open to interpretation has led many, including the ruling party, to believe that a green light is given by Banksy for the public to use, reproduce and amend his art without retribution. 

The artist’s anonymity has also hurt him, as the ruling has taken into account that as Banksy’s identity remains unknown, he will not be able to protect his works under intellectual property laws without first identifying himself. 

This is a hard position to consider for an artist whose fame thrives on mystery and anonymity. It is unlikely that Banksy would reveal his true identity despite pressures from ruling offices, although he has previously taken leaps and bounds to circumvent intellectual property law. As reported by the Art Newspaper, Banksy’s shop Gross Domestic Product, was set up ‘specifically to fulfill a particular trademark category under EU law,’ as told by the artist himself. The Croydon store sold goods online but was not physically open. 

Contrasting opinions have surfaced on Banksy’s potential identity reveal. ‘If they want some recompense for their genius they will have to start showing their face,’ John Brander, owner of Brander Galleries and collector of Banksy originals, told the Telegraph. Professor Paul Gough, principal of Arts University Bournemouth, on the other hand, disagrees. Gough claims that to impose the rules of intellectual property rights on street artists is unreasonable given the nature of their work: ‘They will get credit in the bank, but lose credit on the streets. They will probably find a way around these laws.’ 

Banksy has lost the rights to six of his works so far, but his anonymity remains intact. Representatives of Banksy did not respond for comment on the latest reports.

Sources:

Artnet (1, 2)

The Guardian

The Telegraph

The Art Newspaper

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