Clothing Brand Says It Will Phase Out Logo Amid Controversy With Street Artist, But Questions About “Fluid Trademarks” Remain
07/21/2021In early 2021, the street artist known as Futura filed a lawsuit against the North Face Apparel Corp. (“NFA”) for unfair competition, alleging that NFA illegally adopted Futura’s iconic circular atom for its outerwear line called “FUTURELIGHT.” Recently, NFA issued a public statement regarding the lawsuit, and NFA has committed to discontinuingthe use of their FUTURELIGHT logo out of deference to Futura. However, the lawsuit remains unresolved and involves novel legal issues that could affect the landscape of trademark law.
Another Epilogue In the Long Saga Of A Looted Pissarro Painting
06/09/2021The long-running dispute over a Pissarro painting has come to a close—yet again—after years of legal wrangling in multiple forums, and after a complex settlement arrangement collapsed in spectacular fashion. As is sadly the case in many stories involving Nazi-era art litigation, there is no dispute that the artwork at issue here was outright looted by Nazi forces in Nazi-occupied France, yet the artwork will not return to the family from whom it was wrested.
On Appeal, Second Circuit Reverses Fair Use Ruling In Dispute Over Andy Warhol Artwork
03/30/2021Since 2017, we’ve been following the federal lawsuit between the Andy Warhol Foundation and photographer Lynn Goldsmith. In mid-2019, a federal judge in New York dismissed Goldsmith’s copyright infringement claims against the Foundation, ruling that a series of Warhol artworks based on an image taken by the photographer were protected as fair use. But now, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed that decision, in an opinion that has potentially wide-reaching impacts for the Foundation, for appropriation art generally, and for anyone in the art world who is interested in the ongoing question of how courts handle the difficult concept of fair use.
Supreme Court Rules Against Jewish Art Dealers’ Heirs In Suit To Recover the “Guelph Treasure,” Allegedly the Subject of a Nazi-Era Forced Sale
02/15/2021Just a few weeks ago, we wrote about some of the Supreme Court’s most significant art-related cases from 2020, and noted that we were awaiting the Court’s decision in a long-running dispute over the so-called Guelph Treasure. In early February, the Court issued its ruling, dealing the plaintiffs, who are the heirs of a consortium of Jewish art dealers, a major blow in their attempt to seek redress for their ancestors’ loss.
U.S. Enacts the “CASE Act,” Providing An Alternative, Small-Claims Venue For Copyright Enforcement
02/12/2021At the very end of 2020, Congress enacted new legislation that will provide a streamlined process for adjudicating small-claim copyright infringement cases. The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (the “CASE Act”), included as part of the COVID-19 Relief Bill, establishes a new Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) to oversee claims of copyright infringement that do not exceed $30,000. Some see this is an efficient solution for those seeking to adjudicate minor copyright disputes, while others view this legislation as a potential avenue for attacks on everyday internet users who may lack the resources to track and opt out of these proceedings.
As A New Year Begins, A Look Back At Some of the Supreme Court’s Important Art-Related Rulings, Non-Rulings, and Pending Cases from 2020
01/14/2021As we leave 2020 behind, we’ve put together a brief update on some of the Supreme Court’s most significant 2020 decisions that have implications for the art world, as well as a couple of cases that have been argued but not yet decided.
Grossman LLP Obtains Second Circuit Affirmance of Summary Judgment for Manhattan Gallery Concerning Calder Artwork
01/04/2021At the beginning of the year, Grossman LLP achieved a summary-judgment victory on behalf of a Manhattan gallery in a title dispute concerning an Alexander Calder stabile. On December 15, 2020, Judd Grossman argued the appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and on December 23, the Court issued a decision affirming summary judgment in the gallery’s favor.CATEGORY : Legal Developments
Grossman LLP Secures Win After 3-Day Trial in Lawsuit for Return of Stolen Painting
12/15/2020A painting by an American modernist artist that was stolen from a major corporate art collection over thirty-years ago and replaced with a skilled forgery will be returning home after more than two years of litigation.
Grossman LLP Staves Off Dismissal on Behalf of Italian Art Book Publisher in Contract Action Against Photographer James Nachtwey
12/10/2020At the conclusion of oral argument on December 2, 2020, Commercial Division Justice O. Peter Sherwood upheld Plaintiff Contrasto’s breach-of-contract claims by denying Defendant James Nachtwey’s motion to dismiss the complaint.
Judge Rejects Cady Noland’s Final Attempt To Sue Over The “Restoration” of Her Work
06/04/2020This blog has written before about acclaimed conceptual artist Cady Noland, who has a reputation for being particular about how her works are installed, maintained, exhibited, and sold. As our previous posts explain, she has even, on more than one occasion, disavowed an artwork she created, prompting litigation. Now, a federal judge has issued a ruling in Noland’s most recent legal skirmish, dismissing her attempt to bring copyright infringement claims related to the restoration of one of her artworks.
Upper East Side Gallery Sues Landlord, Claiming It Lawfully Terminated Lease After COVID-19 Forced Closure
05/27/2020Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the ensuing restrictions on businesses, there has been much discussion about whether, when, and how commercial tenants can break their leases or be relieved from rent-payment obligations when they are unable to conduct business on leased premises. Last week, a Manhattan art gallery sued its landlord for declaring a default under the lease when the gallery failed to make its April rent payment, arguing that the lease was lawfully terminated on April 1 in light of the executive orders that restrict the operation of New York’s non-essential businesses.
Lawsuit By Noted Artist Against Her Former Gallery Serves As a Reminder of the Important Duties Galleries Owe To Artists
05/15/2020Abstract artist Howardena Pindell has sued several individuals and entities related to the G.R. N’Namdi Galleries, which, beginning in the late 1980s, represented her work in spaces located in Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Miami. The case raises a host of legal issues that are, unfortunately, all too common in the realm of artist-gallery relationships.
Grossman LLP Wins Preliminary Skirmish In Federal Case Against NBCUniversal Executive
This week, Grossman LLP notched an initial victory on behalf of its client, art advisor Susan Seidel, who is in litigation with art collector and Universal Studios executive Ronald Meyer over a 2001 art deal. The Manhattan-based team, aided by its California local counsel, persuaded a federal judge that the lawsuit should proceed in New York, not in Meyer’s chosen forum of California. The ruling is a reminder that the question of where an art dispute should be litigated can be an important one, and that a plaintiff’s preference may not always prevail.
Tiger King: The Trademark and Copyright Infringement Actions at the Center of the Feud Between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin
04/15/2020Netflix’s “Tiger King” has become one of the streaming service’s most popular series in the last few weeks, documenting the years-long fight between Joe Exotic (né Schreibvogel), the self-proclaimed “Tiger King,” and Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue Corp. (“Big Cat Rescue”). The feud led to three separate intellectual-property lawsuits that bankrupted Exotic and serve as a cautionary tale as to how competitive antics can have severe legal consequences.
How COVID-19 May Impact the Art Law Sphere In the Coming Months
03/31/2020In the few short weeks since our last post in this space, the world has changed in staggering ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on governments, businesses, economies, markets, communities, and most importantly, countless families and lives.
The current crisis has also profoundly impacted the larger art world. We do not claim to have any special powers to predict the future of the art market, particularly in the face of this unprecedented crisis. But as seasoned litigators with years of experience in art law, here are a few thoughts about what we may see in the coming months in the realm of art disputes, as the ramifications of this pandemic continue to unfold.
Artists Win Second Circuit Appeal In 5Pointz Graffiti Art Case
02/25/2020We’ve been following the 5Pointz case since its inception, through summary judgment, a trial, an advisory jury verdict for the plaintiffs, and a decision by federal district judge Frederic Block, who issued an award of $6.75 million (and later declined to reconsider that award). Now, three federal appellate judges from the Second Circuit have weighed in, unanimously upholding Judge Block’s award and his reasoning in this groundbreaking case regarding graffiti art.
Grossman LLP Obtains Unanimous Affirmance On Appeal In Collector’s Quest To Reclaim Chagall From London Galleries
02/11/2020Last summer, Grossman LLP was pleased to announce a major victory in an important lawsuit arising out of the massive Chowaiki scandal. And today, just several weeks after Judd Grossman argued the appeal in the First Department Appellate Division, that ruling has been upheld, paving the way for efforts to recover the Chagall painting.
Grossman LLP Achieves Summary Judgment Victory On Behalf of Helwaser Gallery In Dispute Over Calder Stabile
01/30/2020This week, a federal court handed a decisive victory to the Helwaser Gallery and its owner, Antoine Helwaser, in a long-running dispute over a sculpture by famed artist Alexander Calder. The summary judgment decision, penned by Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York, overwhelmingly accepted the arguments advanced by Grossman LLP on behalf of Helwaser.
Russian Collector’s Claims Against Sotheby’s Clear Initial Hurdle
In Ongoing Rybolovlev-Bouvier Feud
07/19/2019For years now, we have followed the bitter dispute between Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire, and his onetime art dealer, Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier. Now, a new ruling permits Rybolovlev-affiliated entities to move forward with claims that auction house Sotheby’s facilitated Bouvier’s purported fraud. (The news comes on the heels of last month’s announcement that Sotheby’s is being acquired by French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi, in a deal that will take the auction house off the publicly-traded stock market and put it back in private hands.)
Citing Delay, Second Circuit Affirms That Met Can Keep Picasso
Purportedly Sold Under Duress During World War II;
Meanwhile, New York Appellate Court Affirms
That Two Schiele Works Should Go Back To Holocaust Victim’s Family
07/15/2019A three-judge panel for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the lower court’s decision that the Metropolitan Museum of Art may keep a “rose period” Picasso painting despite claims that it was sold by a German-Jewish family to escape Nazi persecution in Italy during World War II. See Zuckerman v. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Case No. 18‐634, -- F.3d – (2d Cir., June 26, 2019).
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