Hollywood Sues Obscure Austrian Art Prize Over ‘Oscar’ Brand

The Academy is taking a tough stance.

The Academy is sending a message that there's only one true Oscar award. Photo: kgou.org

Evidently the world’s not big enough for two Oscars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences successfully convinced the Vienna Chamber of Commerce’s art trade committee to change the name of its honorary award for outstanding services to the arts.

The so-called OscART has been awarded bi-annually to Austrian museums, art dealers, galleries, and collectors since 2011.

With the winner set to be announced on October 27, the Vienna Chamber of Commerce quickly announced that it changed the name of its flagship award to “viennaARTaward.”

The small Viennese art prize quickly changed its name faced with Academy's financial clout. Photo:  Wikimedia Commons

The small Viennese art prize quickly changed its name faced with Academy’s financial clout.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The abrupt decision probably had more to do with persistent arm twisting from Hollywood’s team of lawyers than polite asking or old-fashioned negotiation.

Despite successfully registering “OscART” as a trademark, Horst Szaal, chairman of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce’s committee on art, antiques, and stamp trade, was reportedly keen to avoid an avalanche of lawsuits over a name.

Taking into account the Academy’s backing of a multi-billion dollar Hollywood film industry, the decision was probably correct. But why has it taken Hollywood so many years to react?

Viennese officials present former Leopold Museum director Tobias Natter with the OscART at the (modest) awards ceremony in 2013. Photo: Florian Wieser/wkö via Der Standard

Viennese officials present former Leopold Museum director Tobias Natter with the OscART at the (modest) awards ceremony in 2013.
Photo: Florian Wieser/wkö via Der Standard

Der Standard reported that the 2013 OscART award ceremony attracted media attention in the United States after award winner Tobias Natter, director of Vienna’s Leopold Museum at the time, used the occasion to announce his resignation.

It seems the Academy is so protective of its brand that it will even legally threaten an obscure art prize awarded in a small European country with a population roughly the same size as New York City.

Vienna has seen other battles related to brand names recently. Viennacontemporary, the city’s newest art fair, was inaugurated by the team that broke off from the Vienna Fair brand. Several weeks following their announcement, Art Salzburg founder Wolfgang Pelz announced that he would be taking over the Vienna Fair brand, with his first edition coming up in October.

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