Fordham Law

Company Brands Risk Art Parody, Intellectual Property Infringement

Susan Scafidi in Nightly Business Report, February 27, 2013

VIDEO, Media Source


HUDSON: Corporations dream of creating a logo that is recognized the world over, but the more well-known a brand, the more likely its logo is to be copied.  Ruben Ramirez tonight takes a look at the use of corporate logos in art.

RUBEN RAMIREZ, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  The iconic Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Nike’s swoosh and McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) golden arches are global brands with a global following.

SUSAN SCAFIDI, DIR., FORDHAM UNIV. FASHION LAW INST.:  These brands aspire to be globally famous but the downside of global fame is being bitten.

RAMIREZ:  Being bitten, says Susan Scafadi of the Fordham Fashion Law Institute is when a brand’s symbol is parodied or used in art.

SCAFIDI:  Sometimes it’s a cultural commentary, sometimes it’s a political commentary, sometimes it’s just out of love.  People really identify with brands.

RAMIREZ:  But for companies who spend billions cultivating a certain image, art can feel like an infringement.  David de Buck of the De Buck Gallery says this piece begs the question, what came first, art or fashion?

DAVID DE BUCK, OWNER, DE BUCK GALLERY:  The company Louis Vuitton has a particular logo.  However, that logo was created based off the monogram of a very famous artist called Leonardo da Vinci.  This is how he used to sign artworks and so forth.

RAMIREZ:  Artists like Zeus incorporate logos in their work.

DE BUCK:  What you wear is who you are.  That’s really what his critique is.  So it’s not an attack or a critique directly on the brand.
It’s what they do to us, how they impact us.

RAMIREZ:  But logos aren’t just for art that’s hanging on the wall.

MARISA KAKOULAS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NEEDLES AND SINS:  Designers are kind of co-opting that tattoo cool and making temporary tattoos that go with their brand.

RAMIREZ:  Marisa Kakoulas says for big brands, it’s not so much about fighting people who want a polo pony on their chest or if it comes down to who owns the tattoo. And if the person who gets it used it in a commercial way to make money.  Think back to Mike Tyson’s tattoo which ends up on Ed Helms’ face in “The Hangover 2.”

KAKOULAS:  It’s when you take that art, like the Mike Tyson tattoo and use it specifically in another context, in another medium and that’s where people can get in trouble.

RAMIREZ:  For the most part, attorneys say there’s a clear litmus test.

SCAFIDI:  If you fall on the side of creating a product, the Chanel condom, the Louis Vuitton waffle iron.  The other t-shirts that are out there, you are more likely to fall on the wrong side of the law than if you’re creating a single art piece.

RAMIREZ:  While brands worry about diluting their image, art watchers say artistic works may actually raise brand awareness.

DE BUCK:  These are high end pieces.  I mean these pieces go into beautiful collections of people that can also actually afford the brands products so in that way, there’s a good association.

RAMIREZ:  And that association could actually boost sales for both the artist and the brands.  Ruben Ramirez, NBR, New York.