California-based graffiti artist group, Revok, Reyes and Steel, which consists of Jason Williams, Victor Chapa and Jeffrey Rubin, have sued Roberto Cavalli S.p.A. for copyright infringement. The artists claim that the fashion house copied their work and used it on clothing for the Just Cavalli line. The artwork the group believe Cavalli has infringed upon was on display in San Francisco’s Mission district in 2012.
The artists cite the Lanham Act which gives protection over artist work in their lawsuit and claim that by selling a “clothing and accessories collection in which every square inch of every piece (including clothing, bags, backpacks and shoes) was adorned with graffiti art,” Cavalli has violated the Lanham Act and thus has infringed on the artists’ copyright over their work.
The claim filed by the group in the Central District Court of California, says that “[i]f this literal misappropriation is not bad enough, Cavalli sometimes chose to do its own painting over that of the artists,” by placing the Just Cavalli name over the artwork, attempting to incorporate it into the art.
The group has requested a discontinuation of the collection and are seeking damages as well.
This isn’t the first instance that an artist has sued a clothing brand for incorporating their artwork into their own pieces. American Eagle was recently sued by a Miami street artist for using his mural of eyeballs, on display in Miami’s artists district, in advertising and promotional materials. That lawsuit is ongoing. Urban Outfitters was recently called out by a print-based artist for using his print on a skirt without his permission. UO immediately removed the piece from its store and website.
It is interesting to me that so many of these lawsuits are coming up because while a lot of fashion law cases are not very black and white, the use of another artist’s work on a clothing brand’s pieces is a clear violation of the Lanham Act which gives copyright protection. This isn’t a case where one brand used the same design as another brand, but rather this is a case where one brand took an artwork of an artist and used it in their own designs. This is a clear violation of copyright law.
I have yet to see what the infringing pieces or what the artwork in question is that the artists believe Cavalli used in his collection; however, if it is clear that the work was misappropriated, this could be a slam dunk case. Can’t wait to see what happens next!
source: “Roberto Cavalli Sued By California-based Graffiti Artists,” Fashion Times