Update: In a massive win for Futura, his claim against The North Face for unfair competition proceeds forward. The North Face has lost its motion to dismiss his Unfair Competition claim, opening the door for Futura to proceed against TNF.
Original Post: After Futura's trademark infringement lawsuit against The North Face took an ugly turn this summer, the artist explained his struggle to the public in a heartfelt open letter. The approach initially seemed to work, as The North Face seemingly discontinued its use of the contested FUTURELIGHT logo, a swirling graphic design that looks very similar to the graffiti artist's signature "atom" illustration.
However, the battle was only just beginning.
"The North Face, as well as [parent company] VF Corporation and its family of brands, are home to and partners of many incredibly talented artists. We have great respect for artistic individuality, expression, and intellectual property, and would never want an artist to feel otherwise," The North Face said in a statement posted to its website in early July. "This includes the recent unfortunate situation involving Futura, an artist we hold in high esteem."
Futura's lawyer, Jeff Gluck, told Highsnobiety exclusively that the outdoor brand's statement seems a bit disingenuous, given TNF filed a legal motion arguing that Futura has no valid trademark mere days before it posted that statement.
"If [The North Face wins], this means that Futura has no legal protection for his work, he loses everything he has built up for the past 40 years, and brands would be able to use his signature logo without any recourse," Gluck told us via email. "We asked TNF to withdraw their motion yesterday because of what is at stake. They refused. If they aren't going to use FUTURELIGHT anymore, then why would they need to proceed with a legal motion that could destroy Futura's entire legacy?"
In a nutshell, "TNF cannot say that they respect Futura while simultaneously filing a legal motion seeking to invalidate his entire legacy."
The court battle is "far from over," Gluck said, though his client has just scored a "massive win."
By late July, The North Face is still trying to remove Futura's trademark in court but a month later, on August 27, The North Face "lost [its] motion to dismiss Futura's unfair competition claim," Gluck told Highsnobiety. From here, "the litigation moves forward into the next phase. In defiance of the global artist community, The North Face continues to oppose and threaten Futura's legal protection and assert legal arguments that undermine creators' rights."
Onwards and upwards.