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Banksy Loses Trademark Case to Greeting Card Company

The European Union Intellectual Property Office ruled that the street artist, who remains anonymous, could not be identified as the unquestionable owner of his “Flower Thrower” stencil.

Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” mural in Jerusalem (photo by jensimon7 via Flickr)

Banksy has lost a legal battle against the British greeting card company Full Colour Black, which sought to overturn a trademark that prohibited it from reproducing one of the anonymous street artist’s works. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ultimately ruled against the artist, determining that he could not be identified as the unquestionable owner of the image.

“Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous and, for the most part, to paint graffiti on other people’s property without their permission, rather than to paint it on canvases or his own property,” the EUIPO panel said.

In 2014, the artist’s representatives, Pest Control Office, successfully secured an EU trademark for the image of “Flower Thrower,” a stencil mural he painted in Jerusalem. Full Colour Black, which specializes in “the commercialisation of world famous street art,” according to its website, began an invalidity action against the trademark in March 2019. 

The EUIPO panel also said Banksy’s case was further undermined by a gift shop the artist opened months later in Croydon, South London. The store, called Gross Domestic Product, was described as selling “impractical and offensive” merchandise, such as disco balls crafted from police riot helmets. It was seen by EUIPO as a bad faith attempt to outsmart the law, which allows any mark that is not being used by the trademark holder to be transferred to someone who will.

Aaron Wood, a lawyer at Blaser Mills, which represented the card company, told the Guardian that the results of the recent litigation could threaten other Banksy trademarks.

“If there was no intention to use then the mark is invalid,” he said. “In fact, all of Banksy’s trademarks are at risk as all of the portfolio has the same issue.”

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