Monday 18 May 2015

Romero Britto sues Apple over copyright infringement

Apple was recently sued by the Pop artist Romero Britto over its "Start something new" campaign for using an artwork from the design duo Craig & Karl, that allegedly copies the design style which Britto is famous for. 

A screenshot of Apple's website of the "Start something new" campaign

Britto became aware of the copycat art when Apple launched its worldwide promotional campaign, but he discovered that the two artists had been systematically making art similar to his own for years.

Excerpt of the comparison offered in Britto's complaint

Britto is a Miami-based pop artist, internationally well-known, who works with several brands on advertising campaigns, using bright colours, strong lines and simple designs. According to his complaint, Britto's specific trade dress is "strong, fanciful, non-functional, and inherently distinctive. In addition, the Britto Trade Dress has acquired distinctiveness as a result of uninterrupted promotion and sale of Britto brand products and services".    

The lawsuit was recently filed in the US District Court, Southern District of Florida, against Apple and the graphic design duo for trade dress infringement, trade dress dilution, as well as unfair competition and copyright infringement.

Britto accused the two artists of violating the Britto trade dress and Apple for commercially exploiting the allegedly infringing image. Indeed, Apple uses Craig & Karl's image – representing a patchwork hand on a bright yellow background on one of its iPads in the graphics – to promote its new advertising campaign, describing how this image was realized on iPad Air 2 using IOS apps.

Further to Apple's massive advertising campaign and to the use of Craig & Karl's image in retail stores, many people contacted Britto under the false impression that he had created the infringing artwork. Britto received many incorrect congratulations on his new deal with Apple, as well as messages of dismay from business partners, and inquiries from collectors wanting to know if the image displayed in the Apple stores or on the Apple website came from him.

Britto contacted Apple asking the company to cease using the infringing image, but he did not receive a response. Therefore, he decided to file a lawsuit, asking for an injunction preventing Apple from using the infringing artwork and Craig & Karl from producing or using other copycat artworks, along with damages and attorneys' fees. 

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