Banksy, who once wrote ‘copyright is for losers’, has himself now lost a copyright case. The anonymous street artist took legal action against a greeting cards company that has been reproducing his stencil work depicting a masked protester hurling a bunch of flowers.
Flower Thrower, also known as Love Is In The Air, originally appeared in 2003 on the 760km wall that separates Palestine from Israel.
Full Colour Black sell a whole range of cards, many featuring Banksy works. They have also previously retailed a limited edition gesso plaster toy sculpture of the Flower Thrower, attributed on the online platform Saatchi Art to Andrew Gallagher, owner of the company.
Examiners in the cancellation division of the EU’s intellectual property office however ruled that Gallagher’s business was legitimate.
‘It was only during the course of the present proceedings that Banksy started to sell goods but specifically stated that they were only being sold to overcome non-use for trademark proceedings and not to commercialise the goods,’ they wrote.
In October last year Banksy set up a shop in Croydon, London, to sell merchandise, a move he hoped would establish ownership over his artworks.
Mark Stephens, a lawyer advising the artist told the Guardian at the time: ‘Banksy is in a difficult position. Because he doesn’t produce his own range of shoddy merchandise and the law is quite clear – if the trademark holder is not using the mark, then it can be transferred to someone who will.’
The copyright office added: ‘It must be pointed out that another factor worthy of consideration is that he cannot be identified as the unquestionable owner of such works as his identity is hidden.
‘It further cannot be established without question that the artist holds any copyrights to a graffiti.
‘The contested (trademark) was filed in order for Banksy to have legal rights over the sign as he could not rely on copyright rights but that is not a function of a trademark.’
Full Colour Black aren’t the only ones set to make money from the artist this week. Tonight, 21 September, Banksy’s 2005 painting Show Me The Monet, a take on Monet’s Water Lilies, will go on sale at Sotheby’s for an estimated £3-5 million.