Moschino and its creative director, Jeremy Scott, are being sued in the US by Brooklyn graffiti artist Joseph Tierney (aka ‘Rime’) for misappropriating his graffiti as part of their autumn/winter 2015 collection.
Tierney has alleged that a dress by Moschino bears an infringing copy of his graffiti mural ‘Vandal Eyes’, which he was commissioned to paint on a Detroit building, and that other items in the same collection carry a forged name/signature identical to Tierney’s ‘Rime’ tag.
Tierney’s claim includes allegations of copyright infringement, falsification, removal and alteration of copyright, passing off and negligence. Not only had the designers made a literal copy of his mural but the representation of the work on the dress had, Tierney claims, suffered ‘defacement’ as the reproduction also contained other embellishments, including the name ‘Moschino’. Tierney is arguing that the addition of the fashion house’s name, so as to appear to be part of the copyright work, amounts to an act of passing off as it implies either that the copy was made with his consent or that the work was created for Moschino.
Tierney also argues that his creative integrity has been compromised through inclusion in a commercial publicity stunt. The dress was first modeled by Gigi Hadid at the Moschino show at Milan fashion week and subsequently caused controversy when it was worn by Katy Perry at the 2015 Met Gala. Since the Gala, Katy Perry has been listed on the Worst Dressed list, which Tierney argues has damaged his reputation. Tierney is seeking an injunction, “disgorgement of profits”, and other unspecified monetary damages.
In response to Tierney’s claim, Moschino has released a statement saying that they intend to “vigorously defend the lawsuit” and that "[m]any of the allegations, especially the inflammatory and gratuitous allegations of wrongdoing, are false."
This is not the first case of its kind involving graffiti. In August 2014, Roberto Cavalli was sued by three street artists for appropriating their work in his collections without consent. The artists had created a mural in San Francisco’s Mission district and sued the fashion designer for copyright infringement and violations of the US Lanham Act (the primary federal trade mark legal statute). Press coverage at the time remarked that, although their art form is rooted in counterculture, street artists appeared to be coming to the realisation that intellectual property law might be able to offer something of significance. This latest case certainly suggests that this prediction was correct.