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KAWS Launches Lawsuit Against Digital Marketplaces For Peddling Fake Goods
By Alexa Heah, 22 Nov 2021
An official KAWS sculpture at Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui. Image ID 23498644 © via Mike K. | Dreamstime.com
Brian Donnelly, the artist known more commonly as KAWS, has launched lawsuits against several online art marketplaces, most recently against the site Homeless Penthouse—which is believed to be part of a collective of similar sites peddling fake goods.
According to ARTnews, the lawsuit was targeted at Jonathan Anand, the man behind the site and several others of a similar nature; Dylan Jovan Leong Yi Zhi, who runs competing platform Penthouse Collective; and David Kang, who is accused of abetting both Anand and Leong.
Donnelly’s filings claimed that the trio was behind a complex group of entities made up of online marketplaces, editorial publications, and membership networks; though, it’s unclear if all the sites are officially connected.
On Homeless Penthouse, which advertised itself as an “iconic lifestyle brand” and “a cultural membership with an exclusive community of artists, musicians, and free thinkers,” several of KAWS’s works were available for purchase. The items on sale ranged from works priced from under US$100 to a US$3,500 sculpture said to be made for Dior.
KAWS alleged that the site did not carry authentic artworks, but rather was “a vehicle for selling purported KAWS, Supreme, and Takashi Murakami items, as well as wall art and custom designs.”
He is seeking US$10 million in punitive damages, in addition to millions more in fines for trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and copyright infringement. Any monetary compensation will go towards nonprofit organization Coalition for the Homeless.
Notably, as per the lawsuit, Homeless Penthouse was accused of not being transparent on its FAQ page when asked about the authenticity of the works on sale. The suit said: “These obfuscating, tongue-in-cheek statements are feeble attempts to escape the obvious: the purported KAWS items for sale on the Homeless Penthouse websites are deliberate fakes.”
Richard Golub, the lawyer representing KAWS, felt his decision to file the lawsuit was an unusual one, saying: “In the art world where lots of artists don’t undertake to protect their works, this is an interesting decision by an artist to step out into the marketplace and put a stop to this.”
As for Donnelly himself, he said it was time “to finally end years of unlawful counterfeiting infringement, enrichment on the sale, and promotion of counterfeit KAWS product. The defendants’ unlawful counterfeiting campaign uses multiple entities and calculated schemes to confuse and deceive KAWS collectors around the world.”
“A fake reproduction is distinct from an original piece of art inspired by popular culture. Every collector deserves confidence in the authenticity of the work they own, and after years of [their] deceiving my collectors around the world, I’m taking action to put an end to these unlawful practices.”
[via ARTnews, cover image via Mike K. | Dreamstime.com]
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