Banksy and his art thrived on anonymity for years – until now.
Going incognito has costed the British graffiti artist a two-year long legal dispute with Full Colour Block over the trademarking of his iconic Flower Thrower mural painted in Jerusalem. The greeting card company has claimed Banksy’s anonymity as justification for capitalizing on his artwork, particularly through selling Flower Thrower print cards in store.
Failure to secure his trademarks in this litigation meant that all of Banksy’s trademarks and artworks are now jeopardized and at risk of infringement.
Pest Control Office, an authentication company working on behalf of Banksy, registered a trademark including Flower Thrower with The European Trademark Intellectual Property Office in 2014. On 16th September 2020, the EUIPO refuted the registered trademark, citing the inability to identify Banksy as the proper owner of the marks as the primary reason for the decision taken.
The legal battle spurred Banksy to open Gross Domestic Product in late 2019. The store based in Croydon, South London, featured online sales of Banksy’s artwork. In Banksy’s clarification in opening Gross Domestic Product, he states:
‘A greetings card company is contesting the trademark I hold to my art and attempting to take custody of my name so they can sell their fake Banksy merchandise legally.’
However, Banksy’s attempt to claim ownership of his trademarks backfired as EUIPO noted in the verdict that the operations of Gross Domestic Product was done in bad faith, that the intention behind selling its products was to circumvent the law, rather than in honest practice.
‘Copyright is for losers’.Banksy
The mysterious graffiti artist has previously expressed his contempt for intellectual property, stating ‘copyright is for losers’. The ironic U-turn taken by Banksy in attempts to stake claim in his intellectual property tells us more about the inevitability of the system itself than Banksy’s own blatant hypocrisy, if one would be so inclined to paint him in that particular light.
If anything, Banksy’s criticism of the bureaucratic nature of the system and his subsequent entanglement in it strengthens and validates his anti-establishment stance: he is a critic who, like many a people, is subject to the ebb and flow of the system, not one who stands outside and beyond the bureaucracy he is avid of critiquing.
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