Artist Romero Britto sues Ap­ple and de­sign firm over use of art, style


Artist Romero Britto is su­ing Ap­ple Inc. and a de­sign firm in fed­eral court, ac­cus­ing them of mis­us­ing his color-splashed images and dis­tinc­tive style in mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

The law­suit seeks un­spec­i­fied dam­ages from Cu­per­tino, Cal­i­for­nia-based Ap­ple and the de­sign duo Craig Red­man of New York and Karl Maier of Lon­don, whose com­pany is called Craig & Karl.

Britto’s law­suit, filed last week in Miami fed­eral court on be­half of his Miami Beach-based com­pany Britto Cen­tral Inc., makes a num­ber of claims, in­clud­ing copy­right in­fringe­ment and un­fair com­pe­ti­tion. It also asks U.S. Dis­trict Judge Kath­leen Wil­liams to halt the al­leged mis­use of Britto’s images.

Ap­ple’s “Start Some­thing New” mar­ket­ing cam­paign was cited in the law­suit as one re­cent ex­am­ple of mis­use of Britto art. One im­age, an out­stretched hand with col­or­ful de­signs flow­ing from a fin­ger­tip, was li­censed from Craig & Karl by Ap­ple.

Of­fi­cials at Ap­ple de­clined to com­ment Mon­day. Craig & Karl spokesman Ste­vie King called the law­suit “en­tirely with­out merit” and said the pair would re­spond more fully later.

Britto, whose Miami Beach stu­dio and gallery is about a block from an Ap­ple store, has li­cens­ing deals for his art with nu­mer­ous cor­po­ra­tions and other en­ti­ties rang­ing from Coca-Cola to Mat­tel and the FIFA soc­cer or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing the source of the Ap­ple im­age, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, Britto’s lawyers no­ticed ap­par­ent similarities be­tween Craig & Karl’s other work and that of Britto. Even if an im­age is not an ex­act copy, Britto at­tor­neys say in the law­suit his use of bright colors and re­peat­ing pat­terns is so dis­tinc­tive that im­i­ta­tions are in­stantly viewed as his own work.

“This spe­cific com­bi­na­tion of vis­ual el­e­ments when taken in its en­tirety cre­ates a dis­tinc­tive over­all vis­ual im­pres­sion that is uniquely Britto,” the law­suit says.

In fact, when the Ap­ple “Start Some­thing New” cam­paign ap­peared, Britto re­ceived mes­sages con­grat­u­lat­ing him, in­cor­rectly, for what ap­peared to be a new busi­ness deal with Ap­ple. Some of his ex­ist­ing busi­ness part­ners ex­pressed “con­ster­na­tion” about the sup­posed deal, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

Much of the law­suit, how­ever, fo­cuses on nu­mer­ous images cre­ated by Craig & Karl for other clients.

“Red­man and Maier have sys­tem­at­i­cally been us­ing Romero Britto art­work to ob­tain jobs and ad­vance their own ca­reers by il­le­gally trad­ing upon the con­sumer af­fec­tion and im­mea­sur­able good­will built by Mr. Britto’s decades of tire­less work, pro­mo­tion and in­vest­ment,” the law­suit says.

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