The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has ruled against Banksy in a trademark case surrounding the famed street artist’s iconic monkey image. According to a report by the Art Newspaper, the artist’s EU trademark of the work, which was first filed by the entity Pest Control in 2018, has been “declared invalid in its entirety” by the EUIPO.
The case stemmed from a 2019 complaint issued by the greeting card company Full Colour Black, which contended that Banksy’s trademark was “filed in bad faith and that it was non-distinctive,” according to the Art Newspaper.
Bansky’s image, which was first commissioned in 2002 by a Brighton nightclub, features a monkey whose torso is covered by the message “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge.” A version of the spray paint work sold at Christie’s 21st-century evening sale last week for over $2 million.
In its ruling, the EUIPO points to the image’s display in public spaces as graffiti, which has made it “free to be photographed by the general public and has been disseminated widely.” It states that the artist has long been aware that his works were being used and reproduced “on a massive scale without any of it being under his control.”
Last fall, the EUIPO issued a similar ruling against Banksy’s trademark for his Flower Thrower image. The artist has since re-filed a trademark for that image. Banksy has previously asserted that “public access to a sign and wide dissemination of a sign is not a bar to registration.”