Frankly Speaking – Graphic Art Used?



Paul Frank, a company known in intellectual property circles for wresting away the rights in the name of the company’s founder and then suing that founder when he later tried to do business through a different company under his own name, has allegedly purloined a pretty swell piece of graphic art and used it as part of its line of shirts. The pictures tell the tale, below.

-AttorneyScott / [email protected]



Webb & Webb design, a design studio out of London, designed the below graphic artwork back in the 1980s. The artwork was well-received, winning design awards and being featured in publications and a traveling exhibition. It apparently caught the eye of a Paul Frank “designer,” who did little more than remove the Volvo trademark (probably to avoid litigation with the auto powerhouse) before copying it for a Paul Frank t-shirt. We noticed.

- Reader

Comparison of the Webb & Webb artwork with the Paul Frank copy:

Jazz Hands!

Ian Art


Today’s post reflects the long arms of today’s infringer. I picture an octopus-like creature whose tentacles encircle the globe, suctioning on to an artist’s work, and then whipping said work back into its gloomy lair. This time ’round, the alleged thievery comes from Jakarta, where a need arose for a compelling piece of art to advertise the local jazz festival. Designer Ian Austin’s Deviant Art page, at the time, exhibited the below imagery:



Later, Jakarta’s Jazz Festival released its advertising materials, which included the following:


Is this a jacking by Jakarta, or independent creation?

- AttorneyScott ( [email protected] )

Cat’s Out of the Bag



A tale of two cats, or four to be more precise. Designer Jayde Hilliard created a series of pieces she entitled, “Blue Willow Menagerie” that depicted animals embellished with the public domain Blue Willow pattern. Pleased with her work, she posted it on Deviant art, where it can be seen below:


To her chagrin, the cat aficionados over at Bradford Exchange thereafter posted a product that bore a certain resemblance to her prior work. See below:


Comparing the pieces, though, reveals a close call as to the question of whether the idea was taken (still legal, recall that ideas are “as free as the air,” according to at least one judge), or if the expression was lifted (a violation of the Copyright Act). At the very least, it is a dispute that gives us paws.

-AttorneyScott / [email protected]

Nasty Gal with a Thefty “Oops!”


From the “too good not to share” department: Taylor Swift wore an original Balmain design to some music industry awards event. Nasty Gal, who sells an “inspired” knock-off of this particular Balmain piece, posts that Swift is wearing “their” dress. Basically, Nasty Gal’s copy was so close to the original Balmain that even Nasty Gal couldn’t tell them apart. Of course, this is all perfectly legal in the United States (for now: link). And, this could be some very sneaky viral marketing, so reader beware:

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