Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

25 January 2023

Going into IP battle with Banksy

The anonymous street artist, Banksy is no stranger to intellectual property (IP) controversy.

A recent spat with high street clothing retailer Guess over the use of a Banksy work, Flower Thrower, in their shop window has erupted into another round of IP battles between Banksy and others who use his/her work. The allegation is that the image was used without permission.

And that’s just the point. Banksy, being an anti-establishment artist, will always experience some tension between working within the ‘IP system’, to enforce creative and commercial rights as an artist. Not to mention associated moral rights too.

But on that front, I believe Banksy has had some success. And I would wish any artist or creative can enjoy that too for their own work. But in Banksy’s case, there are some unique lessons.

The story of Banksy’s relationship to IP is not unlike a Matryoshka Doll. There are hidden complexities within hidden complexities nested within the hidden artist whose power and intrigue rests on mystery, surprise and subversion. 

No wonder it can be hard to put Banksy into a neat category of a recognised artist commercialising their work.

So just how is Banksy different? And what’s Banksy doing to shake things up in the ordinarily suited and booted world of IP regulation?

Subverting while using the IP system

Banksy artwork "for sale was $90k now $45k" source Wikimedia Commons

I liken Intellectual Property to an umbrella term to describe a family of different rights that protect the work of creators and inventors. The different members of the family protect different expressions and for street artists that will mostly be copyright. For a business’ product and service brands, there are trademarks.

An artist may branch out into creating products that are manufactured, such as printed T-shirts or other merchandise that carry a distinctive appearance. And for that that there’s registered design.

Banksy, is correctly using as many different forms of IP as he can to maximise protection of his work (we’ll come on to his use of trademarks as a strategy).

In our workshop and webinar, Introduction to Intellectual Property, we emphasise how each of these ‘members of the family’ can be deployed to maximise the defence and use of your creations. While there are distinctions and differences between them, all could potentially be of use.

So how is Banksy doing it and what’s different?

He’s asserting his IP rights, in this case copyright, not to commercialise but to prevent commercialisation and to have his work used within his terms. The terms of use on his website make that very clear;

“Are you a company looking to licence Banksy art for commercial use? Then you’ve come to the right place – you can’t. Only Pest Control Office have permission to use or license my artwork. If someone else has granted you permission, you don’t have permission. I wrote ‘copyright is for losers’ in my (copyrighted) book and still encourage anybody to take and amend my art for their own personal amusement, but not for profit or making it look like I've endorsed something when I haven’t. Thanks.”

The case of Guess

Flower Thrower painting by Banksy (Source: Wikimedia commons)

In the dispute with retailer Guess, Banksy was asserting his rights as the copyright holder around usage. Anyone who creates an original work (be it artistic, musical, recording or even software) can assert the same rights. The hard job is often to enforce those rights.

Banksy, did that in his own inimitable way. He claimed usage of Flower Thrower was essentially theft and encouraged a similar response in an outraged Instagram post; “They’ve helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to them?”

Just to be clear, there is a difference between civil law and criminal law (IP the former, shop lifting the latter) but perhaps from the point of view of the creator who’s had their work used, it can feel the same.

Guess, for obvious reasons, removed the image from their store front.

But then there’s another mystery, nested within the same matryoska doll.

Guess are selling a range of clothing in collaboration with Brandalised who license images by graffiti artists, among them it appears, Banksy. Was there some deal done in private with a third party like Brandalised to allow limited usage?

We may never know and we don’t have to know. Again, the rights holders can use the work as they see fit in public or private. Which again, serves to illustrate how they should be able to retain the upper hand. It is their property, after all.

But what happens when the copyright owner wishes to remain anonymous, like Banksy does? Because to enforce your rights, you have to identify yourself as ‘the author’ or creator.

How can someone who remains anonymous do just that?

Subverting trademarks for a purpose

Laugh Now painting by Banksy (source: Wikimedia Commons)

That is why, some have speculated, Banksy took an interest in filing some of his images as trademarks. Introducing now another Banksy work, Laugh Now, after the image of a monkey holding a placard stating ‘laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge’.

Its application through WIPO can be found here and the applicant is Pest Control Office Limited, presumably the commercial entity representing Banksy (and doing so anonymously).

Which is why a trademark in Banksy’s case might have appeal.

But not only that, a trademark in theory can last forever, so long as it’s being used and renewed every ten years by an individual or company who owns it.

This particular application was met with opposition, however. A company objected to the application on the grounds it was filed ‘in bad faith’ in order to avoid the standard copyright requirements of establishing ‘an author’ and that there was no intention to commercially use the mark.

After an initial rejection at the EUIPO trademark Cancellation Division, it was overturned by the Board of Appeal (Case R 1246/2021-5) on the grounds that, ‘the relief from not being required to reveal his identity does not exclude the intention to use the trade mark.’ And, ‘it may not be extrapolated or concluded that Banksy will use the system of trade mark protection as mere substitute of copyright in an unlawful manner. It may neither be concluded that the proprietor has in general a negative view on Intellectual Property Rights which would lead to a filing of a trade mark without any intention to use it’

One – nil to Banksy.

What does this serve to prove?

Making the system work for you

Owning one or more form of intellectual property is on the one hand just good sense, while understanding your rights to usage is another. You don’t necessarily have to have a commercial purpose to still benefit from IP protection, especially if you want to retain rights over how your creations are used. Like Banksy, look at the different options and make it clear what you own and the value you place on it.

Especially those in any creative industry. You don’t need to even be subversive or anonymous, like Banksy. Any creative business or individual should be prepared if they ever have to have their own IP battles.

And with Banksy, at least, he’s doing it in his own style.

 

Are you an entrepreneur in the arts and culture sector? Want to learn more about how you can protect your creative business? Sign up for our free Start-up Day IP Workshop on 22 February 2023 hosted by Jeremy O'Hare, author of this blog post and our intellectual property information expert.

12 January 2023

2022: Our Year In Business

As we enter a new and exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we cannot wait to help even more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale their businesses across the country. Before we jump in, we want to take a moment to reflect on all of the amazing things we got up to in 2022. This was a year that saw the 10th anniversary of the BIPC National Network and the return of in-person events. let’s recap all our achievements from last year.

The London Network keeps on growing

photo from greenwich launch, Warren King Photography

2022 was a busy year for our London network, with three more London boroughs joining our rapidly expanding National network. We welcomed Lewisham and Greenwich in September, and Bromley a month later. Through our existing partnership with Waltham Forest, that now brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs.

Reset. Restart returns

reset restart graphic banner

In May we welcomed the return of Reset. Restart, a series of free webinars and in-person events around our National Network aimed at supporting businesses in recovering from Covid and in navigating a post-pandemic world. This year we've had over 1,140 people attend these events and benefit from the free expert advice and support on offer.

Creative entrepreneurs got ready for growth

Zoom screenshot of get ready for business growth attendees

After our previous scale-up programme came to an end in January of last year, a new, national programme for creative businesses launched in August to fill the hole. Funded by Arts Council England, our Get Ready for Business Growth programme is only in it's second delivery round & we are already supporting 50 entrepreneurs across the UK in various creative fields. From artisan homeware to theatre and dance companies, we're here to help those in the creative sector who may have pivoted during the pandemic, or are looking for new ways to to grow sustainably. 

Libraries mean business

photo of camera filming the trailer

Did you know, there's more going on in libraries than you think? After filming our trailer in July, we premiered in December across social media, our newsletter and Sky video on demand. We loved having Cultureville, Paradise Cycles and Okan London, as well as our own British Library reference team member, Seema, be involved. What might you find in between the shelves of your local library?

 

We welcomed you back in person

photo from Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy event

October saw the return of in-person events in the form of Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy. We heard from a panel of Black entrepreneurs who are building empires online and discussed the power of the Black economy with Swiss, founder of Black Pound Day.

 

Celebrating 10 years of national business support

 

banner celebrating the national network anniversary

This year we also celebrated our National Network's 10th anniversary and welcomed two new Centres, BIPC Cumbria and BIPC Southampton. Since launching, we’ve attracted 185,000+ attendees through events, workshops and webinars, helped create 19,000+ businesses and 12,000+ jobs, supported 10,000+ existing businesses and helped safeguard 4,000+ existing businesses.

 

In 2023 we've got even more in store for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK.

 

24 November 2022

How to research your high street business

In 2021, the number of independent shops on Britain’s high streets increased for the first time in five years.

A net 2,157 new independent retail businesses opened across British towns and city centres over the year, according to the latest analysis by the Local Data Company (LDC). The pandemic has led to many chain retailers reducing their presence on the high street, creating opportunities for independent businesses to grow in the space left behind.

Why would LDC be relevant for me?

LDC uses a team of office and field researchers to collect data on every retail and leisure business in Britain, which is then interpreted by their analyst team to map trends across the retail industry. This insight is offered to commercial businesses of varying types and sizes, from large chain retailers to property consultancies.

Local Data Online can help you research and determine what start-up business you can plan for the regions in the UK, where there is a gap in the market, or where you should be looking to have a bricks and mortar presence. For example, the following analysis gives you real data on the coffee shops on the high street in London. This gives you information on where your competition, and opportunities may be - and shows the demand for coffee shops and coffee.

Coffee shops across Greater London

Source: Local Data Online

You can use Local Data Online to find out about locations, business types and companies all over the country. It has a searchable, interactive map tool which lets you select a specific area and explore the types of businesses currently in operation, both chain and local. The map also shows the addresses of available vacant units in the area.

Local data map

Easy-to-read diagrams show extra information including vacancy rates, the mix of chain vs. independent shops, local demographics and average earnings in a specific area.

Where can I access LDC?

You can find LDC’s Local Data Online (LDO) software, an interactive insights database of the retail and leisure market, including key metrics for areas such as retail mix, vacancy rate and demographic data, for free in the following BIPCs:

  • British Library
  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • Glasgow
  • Greater Manchester
  • Kent
  • Humber Partnership
  • Leeds City Region
  • Liverpool City Region
  • Northamptonshire
  • Norfolk
  • Nottinghamshire
  • South Yorkshire
  • Sussex
  • Tees Valley
  • Worcestershire

You will need a free Reader Pass to access the reports in the British Library, or your library card for any library outside of London. You can learn more about the database on their website.

If you want to learn more about the retail and leisure landscape in your area, including current occupiers and vacancies, come along to your nearest BIPC which has access and speak to our friendly teams. We can show you how to use LDO to benefit your business, all for free.