Designer Jeremy Scott and the Italian fashion house Moschino have been hit with a lawsuit by the graffiti artist Joseph Tierney, publicly known as "Rime" (aka Jersey Joe), on the grounds of copyright infringement for allegedly copying a piece of artwork that the artist produced on a wall for 'The Seventh Letter' art organisation in Detroit.
According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Wednesday 4th August, the designer Scott has been accused of copying onto items in Moschino's autumn/winter 2015 collection, the graffiti artists Rime's celebrated mural "Vandal eyes" (pictured below). The lawsuit states that: "Rime is a well-known artist. Defendants Moschino and Jeremy Scott - two household names in high fashion - inexplicably placed Rime's art on their highest-profile apparel without his knowledge or consent."
And if there is any doubt that there was 'actual' copying of the artists work, the artists name tag and replica signature can be seen copied onto accessories from the Moschino autumn/winter 2015 collection shown during Milan Fashion Week.
The complaint states that: "If this literal misappropriation were not bad enough, Moschino and Jeremy Scott did their own painting over that of the artist - superimposing the Moschino and Jeremy Scott brand names in spray-paint style as if part of the original work."
In particular, the lawsuit calls into question designs worn on the red carpet at this year's Met Ball, by Katy Perry and Scott himself, both looks identified as bearing a resemblance to the graffiti at hand.
Scott, the creative director of Moschino, has been accused of copyright infringement in the past, take it back a few fashion seasons, Jeremy Scott was accused of copying the artwork of the well-known skateboard artist Jim Phillips onto apparel items shown by Scott in his Fall/Winter 2013 collection. Almost identical reproductions of the artists images and artwork were reproduced on fashion items, leading to a regretful acknowledgement of the offence.
Back then, the designer was forced to apologise and in a statement, Scott said;
"I regret that certain pieces of my February 2013 Fall Winter fashion line incorporated imagery that was similar to images owned by NHS and Messrs. Phillips. I now recognize my mistake and out of respect to their work and their rights, the clothing and handbags at issue will not be produced or distributed."
The artists Phillips was awarded an undisclosed sum of money, and it seems in respect of the current pending lawsuit with Tierney, the same is likely to occur.
The present complaint notes: "The idea of putting graffiti - or "street" art - on ultra-expensive clothing was meant to provoke and generate publicity for the brand/designer." Stating that: "not only did Ms. Perry and Defendant Scott advertise, wear, and display the clothing at the event, they arrived at the event in a spray painted Rolls Royce, and even carried around Moschino branded cans of fake spray paint during the event, as if Defendants were responsible for the artwork."
It continues to state that: "Not only was [the artists] art exploited by Defendants, but his credibility as a graffiti artist was compromised."
If a fashion house wishes to use an artists work, the most responsible way is to pay a licence fee for use of the artwork. Rime is just the latest in a series of street artists who have argued that their work has been copied by well-known fashion brands - Coach, Preen, Versace, and Roberto Cavalli have all recently come under fire. But the real question here, is just how involved are these creative directors and designers in the creative process? It seems that head designers and creative directors of luxury fashion houses much more removed from the creative process than we realise. So these cases then are not only examples of intellectual property infringement, but also examples of poor brand management.
Tierney is seeking monetary damages for the alleged infringement of his work and has called for the fashion house Moschino to cease selling the infringing goods. Moschino has yet to comment on the lawsuit.
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