Two weeks ago, you might recall, we posted about Jeff Koons and his lawyers going after the small, San Francisco-based store and gallery Park Life after somehow discovering that they were selling bookends that looked like balloon-animal dogs. Apparently it was deemed too close to one of Koons’ own pieces, perhaps even one of his most famous, the “Balloon Dog” sculpture. Though the store hadn’t manufactured the bookends, they seemed to become the main, little guy target in the legal advance, at least with the press. Now the NY Times has gotten ahold of the story and reporter Kate Taylor has dug into it. While there isn’t much more new information about the case, other than some word on how Park Life is looking into protecting itself and how the product’s creator, the Canadian company Imm-Living, has also been issued similar cease-and-desist demands, Taylor talked to a number of copyright and intellectual property gurus about how they see the issue. Here’s a bit:
Experts said that given the objects’ differences and that Mr. Koons’s sculpture was based on an object in the public domain, he might have difficulty proving that the bookends violated a copyright. Robert W. Clarida, an intellectual-property lawyer, said that in such a case a judge would probably instruct a jury to filter out the characteristics of balloon dogs in general and focus on what was distinctive about Mr. Koons’s version; if Imm-Living didn’t specifically copy that, it wouldn’t have violated Mr. Koons’s rights.
Taylor also provides some additional backstory on Koons’ own famous legal battles, being sued several times and settling “for an undisclosed amount” in the late-80s, after being accused of copying other artists’ pieces.