Apple gets sued for licensing allegedly plagiarized art


Contested artwork on display at the Apple Store. Photo: Craig & Karl
Contested artwork on display at the Apple Store. Photo: Craig & Karl

A Brazilian neo-pop artist is suing Apple for ripping off his artwork for the company’s “Start Something New” marketing campaign. Is Apple guilty, or is it just a mistake?

The artist in question is Romero Britto, a 51-year-old artist who has lived in Miami, Florida, since 1989. His work is known for combining pop art, cubism and graffiti art into a style that might best be described as Saturday morning cartoons on acid.

Britto is suing Apple in federal court alongside the Craig & Karl design firm, who Apple licensed artwork from for the campaign. One of the contested images can be seen on Apple’s “Start Something New” webpage. The image shows a cartoonish hand squirting blobs of ink and pattern out of a fingertip. The text below the image reads:

Living on separate continents hasn’t stopped artist duo Craig & Karl from collaborating daily. To create this piece, they traded ideas and sketches over FaceTime and iMessage. As they passed the artwork back and forth online, each artist built upon it using iDraw and Waterlogue on iPad Air 2. The end result reflects both the process and the medium — it’s a vibrant depiction of the creative power we have at our fingertips.

In his lawsuit, Britto does not argue that Apple actually stole his work. Instead, the lawsuit claims Craig & Karl’s work taps into Britto’s artistic language by using “bright colors and repeating patterns.”

“This specific combination of visual elements when taken in its entirety creates a distinctive overall visual impression that is uniquely Britto,” the lawsuit says.

Britto claims that when the campaign was launched, he received congratulations from friends for scoring a client as big as Apple.

It’s true, some of Craig & Karl’s artwork looks similar to Britto’s, but frankly, Britto’s going to have his work cut out for him proving that another designer using similar colors and patterns is a violation of the law. It is very, very difficult to prove claims of design theft.

We’ll keep you posted as this lawsuit develops.

Source: San Jose Mercury News