Home Magazine Banksy loses copyright on ‘Flower Thrower’

Banksy, or rather, the mysterious artist behind this pseudonym, lost a lawsuit with the European Union for Intellectual Property (Euipo). The artist wanted to be granted the copyright for one of his most famous works, ‘Flower Thrower', but the Equipo ruled that his anonymity does not allow to identify the painter as a certain author and therefore he cannot be recognized copyright.

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Banksy is the pseudonym used by one of the most famous street artists living today. Having started his career on the walls of the city of Bristol, the artist has always created works with a satirical background concerning politics, culture and ethics, reaching such a notoriety that, during an auction at Sotheby's in London, his painting ‘Girl with a Balloon’ was awarded for more than one million pounds. Despite the fact that the author has repeatedly, through his own works, expressed his adversity towards copyright, his works’ rights are protected and administered by an English company: the Pest Control Office Ltd.

The work ‘Flower Thrower’ was first represented in Jerusalem in 2005 on the wall built to separate Israelis and Palestinians. The graffiti, one of Banksy's most famous works, represents a man about to throw a bouquet of flowers. Over the years, the mural has become a symbol of the battles that are fought not with the violence of bombs, but rather with the flowers of hope.  


Banksy, Flower Thrower, 2005, Ash Salon Street, Bethlehem, West Bank. Credits:Jen Simon.



The mysterious urban artist had registered the trademark for this image with the European Union in 2014. However, in 2018, the greeting card manufacturer Full Colour Black, who wanted to use the image for its products, challenged this decision. In fact, the card manufacturer claimed that Banksy had filed the trademark in bad faith, that is, without any intention of using it for commercial purposes. "It is clear that when Banksy filed the trademark, he had no intention of using the work to market goods or provide services", stated the Euipo.

In the end, Bansky came out defeated and lost the legal battle against Full Colour Black. The Euipo has rejected the artist's request, stressing that for “a trademark to be valid", the owner “must sell the products using the image without remaining anonymous". In short, only by identifying himself can an artist exercise his copyright.


Banksy, Flower Throwers. Credits: Full Colour Black.



Banksy chose to remain anonymous and "to paint graffiti especially on other people's property without their permission, rather than painting them on canvas or on his own property”, emphasizes the EU ruling. The artist has also chosen to be very explicit about his contempt for intellectual property rights, which also quotes one of the street artist's books in which he argued that copyright is for losers. Banksy will have to pay the legal fees and, if he deems it necessary, file the appeal within two months, as well as taking care about his other works, preventing them from similar disputes.


Cover image: Bansky, It’s no great crime. Credits: Chris Devers.

Written by Maria Eleonora Piva

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