9 October 2020CopyrightTom Oliver, Callum Beamish and Vita Hink

When art clashes with IP law: Banksy’s ‘Flower Thrower’

The works of UK street artist Banksy are critically acclaimed and highly valued. Banksy’s artwork would qualify for copyright protection, but Banksy’s anonymity is his hallmark. To enforce copyright, and therefore stop people copying his art, it would be necessary for Banksy to reveal his identity in order to prove his authorship (and therefore ownership) in any copyright.

Banksy has had difficulties enforcing copyright in his art for this very reason. In January 2019 an Italian court was unable to come to a conclusion on the ownership of copyright in Banksy’s works.

In his attempt to circumvent copyright law, Banksy created a company, Pest Control Office, to seek trademark protection over his works.

Many of Banksy’s most iconic works are the subject of trademark protection. This includes the ‘Flower Thrower’ (pictured), which originally appeared on the side of a garage in Jerusalem.

In March 2019, Full Colour Black, a greetings card company attempting to commercialise cards illustrated with the Flower Thrower image, requested the ‘Flower Thrower’ trademark be cancelled.

One of the grounds for cancellation was that the trademark was registered in bad faith—that it was never intended to be used as a sign designating the origin of goods, and that Banksy was trying to achieve an endless term of protection for the Flower Thrower image through inappropriate use of the trademark system, rather than using the copyright protection, which was designed for works of art.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at

More on this story

2 October 2019   Street artist Banksy was “forced” to set up a homeware shop in south London to establish use of his IP, after his ‘flower bomber’ mark was threatened by a cancellation proceeding at the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
10 October 2019   The lawyer representing the greetings card company at the heart of a trademark dispute with Banksy has told WIPR that his client would consider going after more of the street artist’s trademarks.
15 November 2022   Graffiti artist wins against greeting card firm | Board of Appeal overturns Cancellation Division’s finding of bad faith | Trademark registration ‘not abusive’ | Brandsmiths | Eleanora Rosati | ZEK Legal | Philipp von Kapff.