Banksy's empire is under threat now that the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office has ruled that the anonymous artist can't hold a trademark while his identity remains a mystery.
For the past two years, the guerilla artist has been embroiled in a legal dispute with a greeting card company over the use of his design of a protestor throwing a bouquet.
As part of the World Trademark Review (WTR) ruling, three judges agreed that “Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous and for the most part to paint graffiti on other people’s property without their permission, rather than to paint it on canvases or his own property.”
The card company, Full Colour Black, initiated legal action against Banksy and his legal team, Pest Control Office, in late 2018. Full Colour Black argued that Banksy had no intention of using the trademark he had taken out on the design in 2014.
Banksy hit back in a characteristically cynical and satirical manner, launching his very own Banksy shop named Gross Domestic Product. Unfortunately, the stunt backfired. Instead of demonstrating that he was using the trademarks on his work, the judges felt that the shop was “inconsistent with honest practices.
“The use, which was only made after the initiation of the present proceedings, was identified as use to circumvent the requirements of trademark law and thus there was no intention to genuinely use the sign as a trademark."
The attorney for Full Colour Black told the WTR that the ruling could have severe repercussions for the artist’s other trademarks in the EU and the US and that, “in fact, all of Banksy’s trademarks are at risk as all of the portfolio has the same issue.”
The judges decided that "he cannot be identified as the unquestionable owner of such works as his identity is hidden.” Revealing his identity is perhaps the most legally airtight means of holding his trademarks.