Graffiti Artists’ Copyright Infringement Case to Move Forward

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015

Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli will be heading to court after a federal judge overruled its motion to dismiss a copyright infringement case against it earlier this month. (Read the full memorandum here)

The clothing and accessories company was sued by three graffiti artists for alleged copyright infringement, unfair competition, and false designation of origin of murals they painted in San Francisco. Jason Williams, Victor Chapa, and Jeffrey Rubin – colloquially known as “Revok,” “Reyes,” and “Steel,” respectively – were commissioned to paint the mural, which they allege Cavalli featured in its “Just Cavalli” line.

The trio sued on the basis that the fashion house used Chapa’s style of imagery, which he refers to as “revolutions,” as well as Revok’s and Steel’s signatures. In the artists’ complaint, Chapa claimed that Cavalli’s use of his revolutions created a “false and deceptive impression that the Just Cavalli garments and accessories are associated with and/or manufactured by [Chapa] and plaintiffs.”

As is with every motion to dismiss, the court must assume that all well-plead facts are true and the benefit of any doubt regarding the allegations is given to the plaintiffs. As such, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California agreed with plaintiffs stating, “[Cavalli’s] conduct constitutes passing off.” The Court noted that Cavalli “left Chapa’s imagery intact, but re-arranged the ‘Revok’ and ‘Steel’ signatures, rendering them indiscernible in the resulting clothing.” Additionally, some pieces in the collection superimposed the brand name “Just Cavalli” over images of the murals. Plaintiffs claimed that such actions were intentional to “induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal the infringement.”

Amazon, Nordstrom, and Zappos were also sued for similar causes of action for selling the line’s products.