Celebrated graffiti artist Futura (Leonard McGurr) has sued The North Face in federal court in California objecting to The North Face’s line of FUTURELIGHT apparel and fabric technology which Futura contends copies his signature “atom” design and invokes his name in order to falsely suggest an association with him.
The copyright, trademark, and unfair competition lawsuit reveals that The North Face and Futura had at one time collaborated but that The North Face introduced the FUTURELIGHT line in 2019 without informing Futura and without his consent.
Check out the designs for yourself:
A comment from Futura’s lawyer in Artnet News indicates that the lawyer reached out to The North Face to address Futura’s claims, but, according to him, “they had no interest.” Surprisingly, despite claiming copyright infringement, Futura does not cite in his complaint a copyright registration (or a refusal by the Copyright Office) to register his atom design.
As a unanimous Supreme Court ruled in 2019 in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v. Wall-Street.com, although the copyright statute confers exclusive rights on an author of a work as soon as the work is created, a copyright owner may not file an infringement suit until the Copyright Office has registered (or refused to register) the copyright in the work.
While an amicable resolution may be in the Future/Futura, until such time as he satisfies the prerequisites to pursuing a copyright claim Mr. McGurr will need to rely on his other causes of action in his suit against The North Face.
“The North Face seems like they care a lot about being cool,” Futura’s lawyer told Artnet News. “This is probably the most uncool thing they have ever done.”