Artist Sues Starbucks, 72andSunny for Copyright Infrigement

By Patrick Coffee 

Here’s a nugget we almost missed last week amidst all the rose liquor and self-congratulations: an artist sued Starbucks and 72andSunny for allegedly ripping off her work.

The New York Post, of all places, first broke news of Maya Hayuk’s plans to take the coffee brand to court for co-opting her artwork in the packaging of its new mini-frappucino product.

The lawsuit filed by Saunders & Silverstein (full doc shared here via Animal New York) names both Starbucks and 72andSunny. Hayuk told The Post that a rep from the agency contacted her last October, writing “we love your work,” but the artist declined to collaborate with the company after the parties involved spent several days trying to negotiate a deal.


Several months later, Hayuk noticed a resemblance between her own murals (image via her Facebook page):

maya hayuk Facebook…and the rainbow-colored imagery Starbucks used on the product’s packaging when it launched:

More specifically, Hayuk told the Post that the image on the cups was very close to that of five specific paintings that she recently completed.

Here is a side-by-side comparison via Artnet (images taken by Hayuk herself):

Maya_Hayuk_Complaint_JUN25As the suit puts it, “Hayuk has a unique and distinctive style that is very recognizable” and does not resemble the work of Jordan Kay, the artist credited with creating the Starbucks packaging (portfolio here).

You may be reminded of a case from 2012 in which the band Beach House was approached by Volkswagen and DDB regarding a song the company wanted to use in one of its U.K. ads. The band said no, so the agency got the music production studio involved in the subsequent campaign to create a song so similar that fans started emailing the video to Beach House’s Alex Scally, who later told The New York Times that the whole ordeal felt “very invasive.”

In this case as in that one, the accuser will probably not win in court because the ad does not appear to be a direct copy of one of her pieces. (As noted by Artnet, Hayuk has sued various parties in the past for using her work in promo campaigns without receiving permission to do so.)

In other news regarding agencies taking credit for work they didn’t create, Geometry Global Dubai was forced to return its Cannes Grand Prix for product design after various parties noted that no one at the agency actually played an active role in designing the winning product. They just promoted it.

Good to know that the ad industry continues to respect the creative process above all other things.