Paul Frank founder issues monkey writ

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The Independent Online

Julius has been caught up in a tug-of-war between his founder and the company that made him famous.

The iconic monkey, the emblem of the American fashion label Paul Frank, is the focus of a legal action against the firm by Paul Frank Sunich, the designer who first stitched Julius's cheeky face on to a purse in Los Angeles in 1995.

Mr Sunich, who was forced out of the group last year, has issued two writs against his former company, claiming he was dismissed without cause and that it is using Julius, a character whose copyright he owns, without permission.

Paul Frank Industries was formed as a partnership between Mr Sunich and two local businessmen, Ryan Heuser and John Oswald. They helped Mr Sunich, who came up with Julius and his companion, Clancy the Giraffe, turn the business from a small operation supplying surf shops in California into a worldwide fashion empire. The group had a turnover of more than $40m (£23m) last year. However, after falling out with his partners, Mr Sunich was ousted and has been offered only $611,378 for his 33 per cent of the group. He says he is under no obligation to sell, refuses to be prevented from using his own name in further ventures and has the rights to Julius.

Mr Sunich has enlisted the help of Daniel Field, a rock band promoter famous for groups such as Weezer and Audioslave, to assist him in the fight. "Paul owns the copyright on Julius, yes, so I think there's a great possibility that he'll wind up with the monkey," said Mr Field.

In a written statement, Mr Heuser and Mr Oswald said: "The company has treated Mr Sunich very fairly and continues to do so. We hope Mr Sunich will come to realise this."