A months-long challenge to Banksy’s trademark on his well-known image of an ape has ended. A European Union board of appeals has overruled a decision by the EU’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) which pronounced the shadowy British artist’s EU trademark on the spray painted monkey to be “invalid in its entirety.” The Art Newspaper reported Wednesday.
The kerfuffle began when the greeting card company Full Color Black formally opposed the trademark in November 2019, alleging that it was filed in “bad-faith” and that the work was not distinctive. Pest Control, Banksy’s authenticating body since 2008, had filed a trademark for the image in 2018, which was subsequently registered in June the following year.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the victory is that Banksy can remain as he has always been: mysterious. A previous dispute over the copyright to Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” found that “if Banksy could not be identified as the ‘unquestionable owner’ of his graffiti, as his identity is a secret, ‘it further cannot be established without question that the artist holds any copyrights to a graffiti.’”
“This is a significant victory for Banksy, or more accurately Pest Control Office Limited, which enables Banksy to conceal his identity,” Lee Curtis, a trademark specialist at the law firm HGF Limited, told The Art Newspaper. “The fact that [Banksy] may have said on two occasions that ‘copyright is for losers’ should not impact on the validity of his trademark registration.”
Full Color Black’s case depended on their claim that Pest Control filed the trademark without intent to use it, Aaron Wood, a trademark lawyer at Brandsmiths, who represents the greeting card company, told TAN.
Banksy’s monkey first appeared in 2002 on the wall of a nightclub in Brighton with a sandwich board around its neck reading “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge.” The image has been included in many Banksy works since, one of which sold for $2.9m at Sotheby’s during their Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London in June 2021.