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Artist targets Starbucks in copyright lawsuit

Date:2015-06-29

  A New York artist has sued Starbucks and an advertising agency it uses accusing the companies of infringing her copyright in a campaign to advertise a new Starbucks product.

  Maya Hayuk is suing the coffee company after it allegedly used designs similar to her own on its marketing for the Mini Frappuccino, as well as on the design of the cup.

  Hayuk, who has previously licensed her work to brands including Billabong and Microsoft, creates paintings and murals that use colours in abstract patterns.

  Starbucks’ Mini Frappuccino cup features bright beams of colour that Hayuk has claimed mirror the shades she used in a series of five paintings, collectively known as Hands Across the Universe.

  Hayuk claimed in the lawsuit, filed on June 23 at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, that 72andSunny, an advertising agency that Starbucks used, contacted her in October last year to say that it liked her work.

  According to the complaint, the advertising agency wrote in an email: “We love your work and would like to ask you if you would be interested in hearing about a project we think you would be perfect for.”

  Hayuk declined the offer but claimed that Starbucks went on to launch its Frappuccino campaign in May this year using designs that are “strikingly similar” to her own.

  The complaint said: “Notwithstanding Hayuk’s decision to decline Starbucks’s offer to use her artwork in the campaign for its Frappuccino product, Starbucks brazenly created artwork that is substantially similar to one or more of Hayuk’s copyrighted works and used the substantially similar art for the Frappuccino campaign.”

  Hayuk is demanding that the allegedly infringing designs are removed from websites, stores and posters and has also requested damages. She has asked for between $750 and $30,000 for every work that has been found to have infringed her copyright.

  “Hayuk never authorised, licensed, or otherwise permitted Starbucks to reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use The Universe, or any copies thereof, or to prepare derivative works based upon The Universe,” the complaint added.

  Aaron Silverstein, of law firm Saunders + Silverstein, and representing Hayuk said, "Allowing for infringements like this go unchecked sends a bad message. From a broad perspective it says that artists and their work have little value in our culture and that art is treated as a fungible commodity."

  Starbucks had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

TypeInfo: Industry trends

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