New York artist Maya Hayuk was approached by
an advertising agency working for Starbucks, to see if she would
assist them with a proposed advertising campaign. Ms. Hayuk is
known internationally for her paintings using bold colors, and
vibrant geometric shapes - rays, lines, stripes and circles.
She declined the offer to work with Starbucks (too busy) and was
surprised when she saw the final marketing campaign for the
Starbucks Frappuccino product. The marketing materials, including
artwork on Frappuccino cups, websites, and on signage at
Starbucks' retail locations and promotional videos, were
strikingly similar to Hayuk's artworks. The artist promptly
launched a copyright infringement lawsuit against both Starbucks
and its advertising agency, claiming that Starbucks created artwork
that was substantially similar to her paintings and further, the
Starbucks material appropriated the "total concept and
feel" of her paintings, even though there was no "carbon
copy" of any particular painting.
Last week, A US District Court handed down its decision in Hayuk v. Starbucks Corp and 71andSunny
Partners LLC (PDF) (Case No. 15cv4887-LTS SDNY).
It is well settled that copyright does not protect an artist's
style or elements of her ideas. The court denied the claim that any
copyright infringement occurred. In analyzing the two images, the
court notes that the proper analysis is
not to dissect, crop or rotate particular
elements or pieces of the two works and lay the isolated parts
side-by-side, but rather to look at substantial similarity of the
works as a whole. The court concluded that "Although the two
sets of works can be said to share the use of overlapping
colored rays in a general sense, such elements fall into the
unprotectible category of 'raw materials' or ideas in the
public domain." [Emphasis added] Thus, there could be
no finding of substantial similarity and the claims were
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