Artist Asks Judge to Reconsider Case Against Starbucks/72andSunny

By Patrick Coffee 

Artist Maya Hayuk, who may be best known to those outside the world of muralists for accusing singer Sara Bareilles and bag-maker Coach of using her public works in their marketing campaigns without attribution, is not done with Starbucks and 72andSunny.

Just over a month ago, Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan tossed Hayuk’s complaint against the agency and its client, which she filed last summer. But Hayuk continues to insist that the agency and its caffeinated client should be held accountable for (allegedly) ripping her off.

Here’s how it went down…again, allegedly:

  • 72andSunny approached Hayuk about using her work in a Starbucks campaign
  • The two parties attempted to negotiate a deal, but Hayuk declined
  • The agency then created packaging and digital design work that generally resembles Hayuk’s multi-colored geometric patterns
  • Hayuk sued and compiled a series of A to B comparisons between her art and the Starbucks design work

Hayuk’s lawsuit went public in June and got thrown out last month. As reported by Bloomberg, Judge Swain effectively ruled that the artist’s work was not original enough for the Starbucks facsimile to be considered a copyright violation: “The court said that Hayuk’s claims amounted to an attempt to use copyright law to monopolize concepts or ideas regarding the use of colors and basic shapes.”

Hayuk argued that, because her work qualifies as “fine art,” she has greater legal claim to the aforementioned colors and shapes than a graphic designer might. But again the judge ruled that “the overall expression of that style of art in the Starbucks campaign was not substantially similar to anything that Hayuk could protect legally” [quote via Bloomberg].

However, according to docs acquired by MediaPost last week, Hayuk has formally requested that the judge reconsider her ruling. From the original dismissal:

“Plaintiff has not cited precedent for the notion that appropriation of the ‘core’ of a work or set of works…is a proper basis for a finding of a copyright violation.”

Hayuk now writes that “…the Court overlooked key decisions in the Second Circuit when it concluded that none of Defendant’s Frappuccino Works are substantially similar to the ‘total concept and feel’ of protectable elements of any of the Hayuk works.”

It’s not clear which decisions her legal team is referencing here, but the Second Circuit has ruled against other, similar claims in the past. In 2014, for example, it found that a group of builders had not infringed upon an architect’s copyrights even though their work had, in fact, been taken from plans for which he had a valid copyright.

Their reasoning was similiar to that in the Hayuk case: yes, elements were copied–but those elements did not make the original complainant’s work unique because “the builders’ copied designs are features of all colonial homes.”

So while it’s clear that 72andSunny did indeed appropriate the artist’s style after she chose not to work with Starbucks, she cannot claim to have intellectual and legal rights to patterns involving lines, colors and shapes arranged in diamond-like formations.

However one feels about the merits of her suit, it’s safe to say that Hayuk will not be officially lending her work to any marketing campaigns in the near future.

[Image via Hayuk’s Facebook page]