Will Banksy’s Identity Finally Be Unmasked in a Defamation Lawsuit Brought by a U.K. Greeting Card Company?
The company's claim is the latest volley in a long-running trademark dispute with the anonymous artist.
British greeting card company Full Colour Black and its owner Andrew Gallagher have filed a libel claim against anonymous artist Banksy in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court over an Instagram post the British artist made in November 2022.
The existence of the lawsuit was first reported by Daily Mail, which seemingly attempted to reveal the name of the artist. The publication named Banksy as Robin Gunningham, though no new evidence of his possible identity was provided and the Daily Mail acknowledged his identity has never been confirmed.
“The claim we are suing Robin isn’t accurate,” said lawyer Aaron Wood in an email.
Wood provided a copy of the claim to Artnet News and the defendants are listed as “The Artist known as ‘Banksy’” and Pest Control Office Limited, the body that authenticates his art.
The claim stems from a post that Banksy’s Instagram account reportedly made on November 18 and which has since been deleted. In its claim, Full Colour Black alleged that it “contained defamatory words which referred to, and were understood to refer to, the Claimant.”
The post was made around the same time the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office ruled in Banksy’s favor in the artist’s long-running trademark dispute with Full Colour Black. The EUIPO decision reaffirmed a trademark registered in 2018 by Pest Control—for a 2002 stencil of a monkey with a sandwich board sign—on appeal after previously siding with the greeting card company.
Before the decision was overturned, the EUIPO had invalidated the trademark on grounds that it was not applied for in his name. If that decision had stood, Banksy may have been required to lose his anonymity to keep the trademark.
In its new claim, Full Colour Black is seeking at least £1,357,086 ($1.6 million) in damages and an injunction preventing further alleged defamation.
The Daily Mail has linked Banksy to a 2008 photo purporting to show the artist in Bermuda surrounded by spray cans and a stencil. The man in the image was identified as Robin Gunningham, who lives in Banksy’s home city of Bristol—though the artist has denied the picture is of him.
The newspaper suggested that the lawsuit could force Banksy to reveal himself in court. However, the likelihood that Banksy would be forced to personally appear or otherwise reveal himself is low considering his legal name has been kept off the court documents.
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