Milan 05 Mar 2019
Banksy’s company Pest Control has sued an Italian company for selling unauthorized Banksy merchandise in connection to an art exhibition. In a provisional ruling, a court in Milan has ordered the company to stop selling the merchandise at hand. This is probably the first time the artist has gone to court to protect his highly valued intellectual property.
Banksy, one of the world’s most famous yet unknown street-artist, has previously stated that “copyright is for losers”, even though unauthorized copying of his work is widespread. Nevertheless, he is not oblivious to the matter, he has set up a company called Pest Control that authenticates Banksy artwork and handles related intellectual property.
An exhibition called “A Visual Protest. The Art of Banksy” is currently running at Milan’s Mudec Museum (until April 2019) and shows authentic Banksy prints and original work. However, in connection to the exhibition, there were unauthorized Banksy merchandise produced by the organizer for sale, such as journals, erasers, postcards, notebooks and diaries. In this case, Pest Control enforced its BANKSY trademark to stop the unauthorized merchandising, as well as the use of Banksy imagery in the promotional material produced by the exhibition’s organizers.
In a preliminary ruling, the Milan judge ruled that the unauthorized merchandising constituted trademark infringement and should not be sold. However, the judge denied wrongdoings when using Banksy’s name and work on promotional materials. The court stressed that the use of Banksy’s art on such material is informative in the sense that it is necessary to describe the content of the show.