Illustrator Lili Chin Files $1 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against Kohl’s

She registered the copyright years before Kohl's items appeared.

An illustration from Lili Chin's blog, alleging copyright infringement against Kohl's. Courtesy Lili Chin.
An illustration from Lili Chin's blog, alleging copyright infringement against Kohl's. Courtesy Lili Chin.

Los Angeles illustrator Lili Chin has filed a copyright infringement and unfair competition lawsuit against clothier Kohl’s and its manufacturers, demanding a jury trial and damages that could amount to as much as $1 million, without counting attorney’s fees. The suit was filed late last month in US District Court, Southern District of New York.

At issue are Chin’s drawings of her Boston terrier, Boogie, as they appear in her 2011 poster “Doggie Language,” showing the animal in various poses, captioned with what the dog is communicating, from “I’m friendly” to “Hello I love you” to “You will feed me.”

Nearly identical images of the animal appear on T-shirts and socks marketed by Kohl’s. While, in other cases, retailers simply withdraw the offending work upon receiving a complaint from the artist and settle out of court, Kohl’s is continuing to market the allegedly infringing items, according to the complaint, even after the artist contacted the company in July 2016. Chin filed for copyright in 2013, and the poster is clearly marked with a copyright symbol.

“We strongly encourage our clients to register the copyright in their creations,” Chin’s lawyer, Andrew Gerber, of New York firm KG Law, told artnet News by phone. Gerber represented Miami street artist Ahol Sniffs Glue in an infringement case against American Eagle Outfitters; the two appeared together at a SXSW panel discussion, “Fuck You, Sue Me: Artist Rights, Corporate Theft,” in March.

Kohl’s is the nation’s second largest department store chain, according to the complaint, with more than 1,100 stores and annual sales upward of $10 billion. Fellow defendant K.B. Socks manufactured the footwear; the T-shirt at issue was manufactured by an unknown company.

Chin sells T-shirts emblazoned with her drawings, says the complaint, which points out that the artist, as a dog owner and activist, donates a portion of the proceeds to dog rescue organizations.

Kohl’s did not reply to a request for a statement on the suit.

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