It’s been a busy few months for the Roberto Cavalli legal team! Just last month the fashion brand was accused of trademark infringement by the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism and now its found itself on the wrong side of a copyright lawsuit filed by a group of San Francisco graffiti artists.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court, Central District of Californian, claims that Cavalli’s recent Spring/Summer capsule collection was made up of images stolen from a mural in San Francisco’s Mission district painted by the plaintiffs. Jason Williams, Victor Chapa and Jeffrey Rubin — known as Revok, Reyes and Steel – are claiming negligence, copyright infringement and unfair competition violations.
“If this literal misappropriation was not bad enough, Cavalli sometimes chose to do its own painting over that of the artists—superimposing the Just Cavalli name in spray-paint style as if were part of the original work. Sometimes, Cavalli added what appears to be a signature, creating the false impression that Roberto Cavalli himself was the artist.” reads the complaint.
The trio also allege that their perceived association with a luxury label like Cavalli will damage their ‘street cred’ and leave them open to accusations of selling out. Unlike hiring lawyers to bring a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Of course, street art isn’t what it once was and although rooted in counterculture, modern graffiti, including work by the plaintiffs, can now be found exhibited in museums. The graffiti industry, much like the tattoo industry, was once considered outside the law and not subject to the same laws and regulations as other art forms. However, cultural norms have changed dramatically in the last two decades and both graffiti and tattoo culture have now entered the mainstream. The rise in popularity and acceptance into mainstream society has seen a parallel increase in interest regarding the intellectual property issues related to them.
Revok, Reyes and Steel are not the first graffiti artists to bring a lawsuit against a large corporation this month. Just last week the Hollywood Reporter reported that graffiti artist Maya Hayuk, who created a commissioned mural on the side of a building on Bowery St. in New York, had filed a lawsuit against singer Sara Bareilles and Sony Music for using the backdrop to promote a concert tour. The artist also filed a lawsuit against fashion brand Coach over an ad campaign.
More to come on this one!