Banksy’s Attempt to Trademark ‘Flower Thrower’ Gets Tossed by EU Court; Sales Lacks Sincerity

Banksy, the satirical street artist with, failed in an attempt to secure a trademark intended to protect “Flower Thrower,” one of his most recognizable images, because an EU court did not buy his merchandizing strategy. 

The mural of a protester preparing to hurl flowers, sprayed on a Jerusalem building in 2005, failed to win trademark approval from the European Union because the court doubted the sincerity of his attempt to merchandise the image through a pop-up store in South London.

Banksy hoped that the trademark would prevent unauthorized use of the image by a greeting card company, Yorkshire-based Full Colour Black. While copyright is typically used to protect content and designs, filing one would have forced the famously private artist to reveal his identity.

A trademark is in some ways more desirable than a copyright because in the EU, like the US, it is not subject to term limitations.

For the full story, read “Trademarks are for Sellers: Banksy Store Created for Trademark Defense Fails to Protect ‘Flower Thrower.'” It is this month’s Intangible Investor running in IP Watchdog.

Banksy’s pop-up store in South London has been closed

Only when he thought he must did Banksy set up an online store – Gross Domestic Product – and a pop-up location in Croydon, South London. He said that he had been “making stuff for the sole purpose of fulfilling trademark categories under EU law.”

Pest Control

The Commission said the artist’s company, Pest Control, had filed the mark in order to avoid using copyright laws, which would have required the elusive artist to reveal his true identity — something he has managed to keep hidden for more than 15 years.

Banksy, as much a social critic and satirist as an artist, infamously said in his 2005 book, Wall and Piece, that “copyright is for losers.” (See IP CloseUp.) His failed attempt to protect ‘Love is in the Air, Flower Thrower’ from unauthorized use made him a trademark loser, but still a winner when it came to self-promotion. The rush to use the ‘Flower Thrower’ image, should there be one, is more likely to perpetuate his reputation than harm it. His many other works, protected or not, are likely to be worth even more.

Banksy’s perspective of the art, intellectual property and social world is more conscious than it may at first appear. The elusive street artist is keenly aware of the impact of his notoriety and its value. If a controversy he engages in attracts sufficient on-lookers, he wins even if looses.

Image source: ‘Love Is In The Air, Flower Thrower,’ 2005, Ash Salon Street, Bethlehem, West Bank, photo: CC BY 2.0 by jensimon7, used under the Creative Commons copyright, 

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