The Sunday Telegraph
Secret persona cuts both ways as Banksy fails to copyright works
Greetings cards company persuades EU to cancel trademarks on two more of anonymous artist’s pieces
BANKSY can no longer claim legal rights to his artwork, experts say after he was stripped of two more trademarks for some of his famous graffiti.
The two latest rulings against the anonymous multi-millionaire street artist mean he has lost rights to four of his works. The European Union Intellectual Property Office judgments warn Banksy’s anonymity means he cannot secure copyright. He is repeatedly trying to claim trademark rights.
The judges found he was acting in “bad faith” because he was only pretending to want to trade in his creations, having said intellectual property laws were “for losers” and urging people to “copy, borrow, steal and amend” his work.
Full Colour Black, a British greetings cards company that recreates his works, has persuaded the EU to cancel trademarks he obtained three years ago for Radar Rat and Girl with an Umbrella.
The legal papers say Girl with an Umbrella emerged in 2008 in New Orleans and became “one of the bestknown” Banksys. Radar Rat, “arguably the most iconic and famous of his works”, appeared on walls in London.
The panel said because Banksy “has chosen to be anonymous” his “identity cannot be legally determined” and that “hinders him from being able to protect this art under copyright laws without identifying himself ”.
They add how “identifying himself would take away from the secretive persona” which has made him so famous.
While copyright protects an artist’s work from reproduction for their lifetime and 70 years after their death, a trademark secures indefinitely the commercial origins of a product.
The panel accepted Banksy filed the two trademarks in “bad faith” because he had no intention of actually using the images for trade. They said “there is no evidence Banksy was actually producing, selling or providing any goods or services” before he successfully applied for the EU trademark in 2018.
He then opened a shop in Croydon in 2019 that “would not be open to the public” but traded only online, before stating the store was only created to help the “trademark dispute” with the greetings card company.
The panel concludes Banksy and his lawyer – “by their own words” – opened the shop to “circumvent the law” rather than to use their trademarks for commercial purposes.