Artist Romero Britto sues Apple, design firm over marketing images

“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,” Curt Anderson reports for The Associated Press. “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.”

“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,” Anderson reports. “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.”

“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,” Anderson reports. “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.”

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Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yeesh. “Start Something New,” indeed.

On the face of it, and that’s what really matters here, The Craig & Karl stuff certainly seems evocative of Britto’s. Whether that’s “illegal” or not will be interesting to find out.

After the Mac, the iPhone, and the iPad, among other things, certainly Apple themselves would side with the originator, right?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “BD” and “Edward W.” for the heads up.]

44 Comments

    1. Based on Apple’s lack of success in the courts vis-a-vis pursuing derivative ripoffs from the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Xiami, I would guess they’ve learned that there is no real downside to appropriating creative ideas. Besides appropriating styles in art is an age old tradition, hence one see’s “periods” of art such as impressionism and post-modernism. I don’t think Britto has much of case against Apple. Perhaps against Craig and Karl, who undoubtably presented their art as “original”.

      1. There is no such thing as original art in the first place. There is no such thing is art that can be copyrighted or trademarked. It take more than an image to be copyrighted and/or trademarked. It is usually a graphic image that is associated with a commercial product that usually contains letters and/or word with a specific message. Such as IBM, and even then depends on the typeface used by the original users and the copier user.

  1. Is my breathing pattern evocative of yours? How about the way we part our hair? I sue you for copying me! Really, this whole thing has gone way, way too far. No one will be able to draw anything, compose anything, make anything, write anything if this keeps going.

  2. It seems to me that Britto’s art it’s also highly influenced by other artist… (“Abaporu”, Tarsila do Amaral, 1928).
    One of the most famous examples of Brazilian modernism painting.

  3. Reminds me of the stuff I did in about 3rd grade where you just made a scribble on the paper and then colored different segments different colors. I think I can recreate some of it if Britto wins this so I can sue *him* for copying my 3rd grade genius.

  4. go flip through an illustration directory, some are hundreds of pages thick , and you can see dozens of artists with similar styles.

    the idea that you can trademark a style today is silly.
    You can trademark an image but not a ‘style’.

    Both of the artist’s above are rip offs of Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein (and the whole bunch of Lichtenstein followers). And Lichtenstein ripped of comic books by enlarging the ‘benday dots’ found in the printing (especially old comics).

    http://www.theculturemap.com/forget-rumours-visit-bradford-find-world-class-art/roy-lichtenstein-england-art-museum-screenprint/

    1. It may be the difference of using it as your company’s Advertising style.. Yes there may be many pioir artists that use similar art styles, the question is how many Advertising companies come to mind when you see the ad. Seems the argument is strongly for Brillo.

      1. when i look at Britto I see ‘Lichtenstein’ rip off.

        perhaps Lichtenstein’s estate could sue him but all ‘name’ artists know that ‘styles’ can’t (or shouldn’t) be trademarked, images, icons (like Mickey Mouse) possibly but not ‘styles’.

        so nobody can use Britto ‘style’ in ads although he ripped off Lichtenstein? makes no sense.

        1. The point I’m trying to make is not that any ad agency can make use of an artist’s style, rather that the ad agency that has built up a reputation and goodwill with a particular style over decades is being ‘damaged’ by a rival agency riding that built up reputation for that art style to the point where the rival agencie’s work is being mistaken for Britto’s and affecting their current and long time customer’s interactions with Britto.

          1. “rather that the ad agency that has built up a reputation and goodwill with a particular style”

            you seem to know very little about art history.
            If anybody has built up a reputation with ‘benday dot, line, flat colour artwork’ it is Liechtenstein. He’s in near every standard art history book and in numerous big museums. He’s passed on now but he was doing that style since the 1960s. Do that kind of ‘style’ and straight away any art knowledgeable art person says Lichtenstein.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein

            (please look at the DATES on those paintings).

            He even had a famous Mickey painting! ‘Look Mickey’ !! from 1961 !!
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_Mickey

            You’re argument that Britto “has built up a reputation and goodwill with a particular style” therefore has a corner on Lichtenstein style is like saying Samsung a corner on ‘Apple Style’ because Samsung has made so many copies it now has ‘reputation’ for it.

            —–
            I have two degrees in art and worked as an art director.

            1. Just going with the claim made by the lawsuit (see source article last paragraph):
              “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.

      2. @ennex1170

        What you just said has nothing to do with copyright law, which is what they are being sued under, not trademark.

        Everything is clearly prior art going back a century.

        1. If I read the suit in the source article right, copyright infringement is but one part of the case and in no way excludes the possibilities of charges for Trademark. The case it seems to me is not so much art infringement as brand dilution for the Britto ad agency which primarily uses the art by the artist of the same name and the confusion being caused their current clients that may possibly be rivals of clients at Craig & Karl.

      3. Sorry, one cannot copyright “look and feel”. One can only copyright a specific manifestation of said look and feel. For example, in the above images, both of the Mickey Mouse images may be legally copyrighted by either artists, but the image of Mickey is most likely Trademark to Disney. . . and would need to be licensed for commercial use by both. They may have an argument for a SINGLE use in an artwork under fair use doctrine, but not for re-prints for commercial gain. Had Craig & Karl made their art work exactly like the Britto piece except for changing only the colors, then Britto would have a legal claim. They did not. It is a completely different, while possibly a derivative work, but worthy of copyright on its own.

  5. This is going go back to rectangles with round corners, rhetoric.

    Britto’s problem, is he created simple art, utilizing color and shapes for texture. It’s not likely, but possible, Craig and Karl, came up with the same idea, independently. But in case they didn’t, why does Britto get to own a particular art form?

    Picasso, as others have mentioned, influenced him, why can’t he influence someone else in a non-culpable way?

    1. I think the problem is similar to trademarks, you don’t want to create something that is going to be mistaken for the work of another more recognizable, established brand. Britto is probably suing partly for dilution of their branding/Advertising style.

        1. I understand that Art may not be brand or trademark able. The point of the case is damage to the Britto brand that has built up a unique reputation of being the only advertising agency to make use of the art style IN ADVERTISING for many many years. Advertising agencies work rather hard at making sure direct competitors are not in their clientele. This is a value proposition that is a strong part of ad agencies brands. The suit is to recover damages (reputation and monetary) from competing ad agencies that have diluted the brand Britto has worked to build and has caused confusion among their clientele who are dismayed to think that Britto did ad work for a competitor.

          1. Sorry, an ad agency cannot claim ownership of a style. It doesn’t wash. They can trademark a particular logo design, but not an entire art movement. That doesn’t pass muster and will be laughed out of court. It was attempted when a printing house tried to copyright all versions including the similar look and feels of a typeface. No go.

  6. I guess if I colour in between the lines too carefully, I am somehow copying this man who colours really carefully between the lines. Am I gonna be sued?

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