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Miami Artist Says Apple Co-opted His Style

(CN) - Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto says in a federal lawsuit that Apple Inc. is co-opting his distinctive color-splashed style in its marketing campaigns.

In a lawsuit filed in Miami, where Romero maintains a South Beach gallery, the artist says the consumer tech giant has engaged in "blatant and repeated unauthorized use" of his artwork in its products, stores, marketing and promotion.

According to Britto, Apple's co-defendants, Craig Redman and Karl Maier, are graphic artists who "are systematically producing, and in many cases offering for sale and/or license, infringing copies of Mr. Britto's artwork."

Together, Britto claims, Redman and Maier "have employed copycat images of Britto's works in lucrative licensing deals for merchandise and promotions with companies such as Nike, The Gap Inc., Keihl's and Apple."

He goes to allege that the artists "Found that the more their images resembled Romero Britto's, the more successful they became in their business endeavors."

"There is a traceable shift in Craig & Karl's body of work where it can be observed that conscious decisions were made to leave behind other styles of work and focus primarily on creating Romero Britto knockoffs," the complaint says.

Britto says he became only became aware of the defendant artists activities after Apple launches its worldwide "Start Something New" promotional campaign.

"The centerpiece of Apples Start Something New campaign was an image created by Craig & Karl clearly copying the artwork of Romero Britto," the complaint says. "The infringing Apple image was featured prominently on the splash landing of the www.apple.com website, as well as in huge scale display in dozens of Apple retail stores worldwide."

Britto says, "As with any Apple campaign, the Start Something New Campaign had massive exposure and breathless press coverage, and many of the media profiles prominently featured the Infringing Apple Image."

He says after the campaign was launched, he was inundated with comments and other reports about it.

"These reports ranged from, for example, incorrect congratulations on Mr. Britto's new deal with Apple, to consternation from business partners in potentially collaborative or competing product categories, to inquiries from collectors wanting to know if the image they saw in the Apple store or on the Apple website was by Romero Britto," the complaint says.

Britto says as he then looked into the matter, he discovered "Redman and Maier have systematically been using Romero Britto artwork to obtain jobs and advance their own careers by illegally trading upon the consumer affection and immeasurable goodwill built by Mr. Britto's decades of tireless work, promotion, and investment, all the while causing damages and irreparable harm to Plaintiff."

Britto is seeking damages, disgorgements of the artists and Apple's alleged ill-gotten gains, as well as preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.

He is represented by Robert Zarco of Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowki & Brito PC, and Mikhael Bortz. all of Miami Fla.

According to Britto's website, his artwork, murals and sculptures can be found in museums and other public spaces around the world, including Columbus Circle in New York and in Hyde Park in London. He has also been a panelist at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was involved in the creation of the Cirque du Soleil pre-show at the National Football League's Superbowl XLI.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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