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Korean cosmetics brand sues Japanese artist for copyright infringement

By Natasha Spencer , 10-Jan-2017

Korean cosmetics brand sues Japanese artist for copyright infringement

W.Lab, a Korean cosmetics retailer, has countersued Yoshitomo Nara over the use of an image that features on the company’s W-Honey Beam Cushion make-up product range.

The Japanese neo-pop artist showcases prints, drawings and sculptures of large-eyed, discontent teenagers on his website.

Originally, due to the likeness between the creation W.Lab had used on their cushion compact line and one particular piece of Nara’s artwork, he asked the Korean cosmetics firm to recall the W-Honey Beam products.

Following this request, W.lab has now countersued and filed a case against Nara on the basis of authorship. The brand claims that the image was designed by their in-house team.

As W.Lab states that its artwork, named ‘Bee Girl’, was designed internally within the company, it argues that the artist is unlawful in asking for it to be withdrawn.

Market rights

To date, W.Lab — which retails on e-commerce shop Style Korean — still displays the W-Honey Beam Cushion make-up selection, featuring ‘Bee Girl’.

In a number of Tweets that have since been deleted, reported ArtForm, Nara emphasised that he “thought this crossed the line of mere resemblance” and that W.Lab had responded in their counterclaim stating “they were the author of the work” and “Nara has no right to claim restitution”.

As W.Lab has a considerable following in Japan and as Nara has achieved sizeable support in Korea, it’s likely that they have crossed over into each other’s marketplaces and therefore consumers may have noticed the similarity.

Property protection

With cosmetics companies fiercely seeking to gain a competitive edge over brands in the marketplace, in recent years a number of intellectual property cases have appeared in the beauty sector.

In 2013, British-based beauty company sued online retail giant Amazon for trademark infringement as — along with Deep Sea Premier Laboratories, who filed a similar suit — it stated that Amazon allowed its searches to show results from other similar companies when their name was entered.

Lush won the case in 2014 as the High Court stated that Amazon’s actions had “damaged the origin function and the advertising and investment function” that was attached to Lush’s trademark.

Prada filed a trademark infringement suit in 2013 for as it argued that Preferred Fragrance, a low-cost alternative scents manufacturer, had violated its trademark rights by launching ‘Party candy perfume’ scent. The high-end fragrance retailer argued that this was too similar to its Prada Candy range.

After a number of adjournments, the case was settled out of court.

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