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“My Lovely Bleeding Heart” (courtesy of Julian Rivera)

Street artist Julian Rivera has sued Walmart and Ellen DeGeneres for alleged copyright infringement of his signature “love” symbol in a DeGeneres-designed apparel line sold by the retail giant.

In a complaint filed in a California District Court on Monday, July 29, Rivera claims his copyrighted design, a heart symbol enlaced with the word “Love” in cursive, was used in the collection without his permission. The artist uses the design as a signature or logo on his artworks and sells pieces featuring the design on his online shop, the complaint adds. It claims the only thing differentiating Walmart’s “love” symbol from Rivera’s is that it lacks the artist’s signature paint drip.

Earlier this year, Walmart teamed up with the celebrity comedian and talk show host on a clothing line called the “EV1 Collection.” DeGeneres promoted the collection on her popular daytime TV show, describing it as “rooted in love and spreading love.”

Rivera’s attorney Jeffrey Gluck wrote in the complaint that the artist consciously avoids any association with corporate culture to maintain his reputation as a street artist. “Despite offers, he has very rarely made his original art available as part of corporate advertising campaigns — partly for artistic reasons but also because doing so would diminish the value of his work,” Gluck wrote. “Indeed, nothing is more antithetical to a street artist’s credibility than association with mass-market consumerism — of which Walmart is the epitome. People who recognized his Design in the EV1 Collection would have concluded that Rivera ‘sold out,’ diminishing the value of his work and reputation.”

Rivera says in the filing he sent a cease and desist letter to Walmart in May. In July, he received a letter from the retailer’s lawyers arguing the company had not copied the design, that its own graphic was quite different, and that the design was “only minimally creative.”

Rivera is now suing for copyright infringement and unfair competition. The artist is also seeking monetary damages and an order that the retailer must recall all infringing products from the marketplace.

A Walmart spokesman told the Hollywood Reporter in a statement that the retailer “respects the intellectual property rights of others” and that it will “respond appropriately with the court” after its served with the complaint.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

4 replies on “Ellen DeGeneres and Walmart Sued for Allegedly Infringing on Artist’s Design”

    1. Don’t talk bollocks. Its a straight-up rip off. And biggies as you call ’em are ALWAYS trying it on, especially because artists are usually too poor to do anything about it.

  1. Looks pretty blatant to me, but it was probably stolen by someone further down the food chain, who didn’t think they would get caught. If WalMart and DeGeneres don’t make good on using the artist’s work, unwittingly or not, that will be a different story. I hope the artist is paid a good chunk for his work.

    1. You’re right. Some graphic designer in an Art Department lifted the idea and passed it upstream. Conceptually, it’s wonderful. I worked in many art departments myself over the years. This kind of stuff happens. Agreed. It would be good if WalMart and Ellen made good.

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