Art Law: All Claims Dismissed Against CL&M Client Robert Indiana

Litigation partner Gary D. Sesser, Art Law Practice Group chair Ronald D. Spencer, and associate Judith Wallace obtained summary judgment for the renowned artist Robert Indiana (creator of the iconic LOVE sculpture, among other important works), dismissing all claims against the artist in a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York.  The plaintiff John Gilbert had brought claims under an agreement with Mr. Indiana to produce and sell artwork depicting the Hindi word for “love” written in a Hindi alphabet.  The dispute arose when Gilbert, with a business partner, conceived, designed, fabricated and sold, as a work by Mr. Indiana, sculptures entitled “English Prem,” comprised of the Latin letters P, R, E, and M from the English alphabet, in block letters, stacked in a 2-by-2-letter square.  When Mr. Indiana stated that English Prem was not his work, but rather had been created by Gilbert, Gilbert sued him, asserting federal Lanham Act, contract and tort claims.  Judge Katherine B. Forrest, noting “the strong public policy against attempting to use a court of law to perpetuate a fraud upon the public,” dismissed all Gilbert’s claims, holding that English Prem was a visually distinct work; that English Prem was, as a matter of law, not a “derivative” of the Hindi script design as defined by U.S. copyright law; and that English Prem was not authorized in any way by the parties’ agreement.

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