Banksy’s Secret Identity Threatens Legal Rights To His Work

Banksy finds himself stripped of two or more trademarks for some of his famous graffiti. The two latest rulings against the anonymous multi-millionaire are resulting in Banksy losing rights to four of his works.

Source: Sky News

The European Union Intellectual Property Office have officially commented on Banksy’s anonymous status, citing that it could result in his loss of rights to four works. Banksy’s attempts to claim trademark rights have been denied.


Full Colour Black, a British trading card company that recreates Banksy’s works for sale, have recently been able to persuade the EU to cancel several of Banksy’s three-year-old trademarks. The latest rulings come from the EU office’s “cancellation department”. The works include Radar Rat, arguably the most recognisable of Banksy’s collection and Girl With an Umbrella. According to Art Net,

“The judgment was made in favor of Full Colour Black, a U.K. greeting card company which recreates Banksy’s works for sale.”

Source: Art Net

Although copyright may protect an artist’s work from reproduction throughout their lifetime (and for seventy years after their death), a trademark can secure the commercial origins of a product indefinitely. The panel deemed that two trademarks have been filed by Banksy in “bad faith”, citing Banksy’s refusal to use these images for trade. The panel determines that,

“there is no evidence Banksy was actually producing, selling or providing any goods or services” 

Source: National Post

Cancellations and Commercial Exploitation

Credit: ART news

The EU panel has previously cancelled Banksy’s trademark for Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge, depicting a monkey (or monkeys) wearing a sandwich-style advertising board.

Another cancellation is confirmed as of this week. It includes a work known as Bomb Hugger.

Australian Applications

Banksy has recently won a bid to protect his most famous work from exploitation within Australia. Banksy has applied via a Perth law firm to trademark two images in Oz. Two applications have received approval, with registration taking place next week. The applications apply to the use of images on goods which include clothing, handbags, posters, umbrellas, bedsheets, rugs and many more. The EU trademark is identical to the one sought in Australia.

Love Is In the Air, aka Flower Bomber or Flower Thrower are both in the process of registration in Australia. A reprint of this work recently set an Australian auction record in May. An unidentified American bidder splurged $184,091 on an original, signed Banksy print in the Museum of Contemporary Art shop.

Alternative Methods

In 2019, Banksy opened a shop in Croydon. The shop remains closed to the public and utilises online sales only. Banksy states that the store is to assist with the “trademark dispute” with the greetings company.

Aaron Wood, the attorney for Full Colour Black tells Art Net News,

“We are naturally delighted that the E.U. trademark office has confirmed our belief that Banksy acted in bad faith in registering those works as trademarks,”

He continues,

“…His case was undone by his public statements and those of his lawyer, Mark Stephens, who seemed to take delight in publicly professing how clever they were in opening the Croyden pop-up to subvert trade mark law.”

Source: Art News

According to the report issued, Banksy’s authentication vehicle known as “Pest Control” did not respond to requests for comment.

The EU panel has been able to conclude that Banksy and his lawyer,

“by their own words” — opened the shop to “circumvent the law” rather than to use their trademarks for commercial purposes.

Source: National Post

The Banksy Reveal

A 2003 interview with a street artist claims to be Banksy | Credit: High Snobiety

Banksy’s identity is one of the most highly-guarded secrets in the art world. As a key component to his success, his identity remains protected. This has been the case throughout his decades-long career. The EU panel claim that Banksy’s choice to remain anonymous will result in his identity remaining legally undetermined. Because of this, Banksy remains unable to protect his art via copyright laws without identifying himself. If Banksy would like to retain ownership of his works, he may have to reveal his true identity.

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