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Banksy loses art trademark battle with greeting card company in ‘devastating’ ruling

Judges ruled that mysterious artist’s intent on anonymity did not help his case

Adam White
Thursday 17 September 2020 10:32 BST
Valentine's Day-inspired street art 'created by Banksy' appears in his home city of Bristol
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Banksy has lost a legal battle over one of his most famous artworks, with a trademark attorney calling the decision “devastating” for the artist.

The artwork, which depicts a masked protester throwing a bouquet of flowers, appeared on a wall in Jerusalem in 2005. It has since been reappropriated by the UK card company Full Colour Black, which has used the artwork on cards.

In 2014, Banksy successfully applied for an EU trademark for the work, which was then challenged by Full Colour Black. The company argued that the artist was not entitled to the trademark as he did not wish to use it for trade purposes or for branding.

As a result of the challenge, Banksy opened up his own shop in October 2019 which featured versions of his artwork for sale. In an interview, the artist admitted that the shop was opened “for the sole purpose of fulfilling trademark categories”.

Judges at the European Union Intellectual Property Office have now ruled in favour of Full Colour Black. They argued that Banksy’s decision to graffiti public property and his previous expressions of disinterest in maintaining the copyright to his own work were both factors in the ruling.

Banksy has long expressed disdain for intellectual property, famously claiming “copyright is for losers”.

Judges also argued that it was difficult for Banksy to exert copyright laws while remaining anonymous, with the artist famously keeping his true identity a secret.

Full Colour Black’s trademark attorney, Aaron Wood of law firm Blaser Mills, said that the ruling was “devastating” for Banksy.

Banksy's graffiti mural 'The Flower Thrower', which was painted on a Jerusalem wall in 2005 (Alamy Stock Photo)

“He will need to consider whether any of his trademarks for his artworks are actually valid,” Wood said.

Earlier this month, Art Attack star Neil Buchanan was forced to deny that he is in fact Banksy, following a viral Twitter thread suggesting he may secretly be the mysterious artist.

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