H&M In Intellectual Property Dispute With Graffiti Artist

East Atlanta Artist Tori LaConsay Claims Design Was Stolen

H&M have been accused of ripping off a graffiti artist’s work and reproducing it without the artist’s permission. Tori LaConsay painted the original sign on a disused billboard in East Atlanta to put a smile on the faces of commuters and residents on their way to work. The painting In black lettering against a white backdrop incorporates a small heart and reads, “You Look Nice Today.” She only discovered the infringement when friends told her that her intellectual property had been used on a range of household items including sheets,pillowcases and a fibre doormat. When confronted H&M stated that it was not a direct copy of the artists work, but that they had selected a range of slogans and modified them to ‘inspire’ the range. H&M are one the wealthiest multinational clothing companies in the world, with over 2000 branches they should just admit that they are wrong and pay the artist a fair fee, for the use of her idea and imagery. I If H&M are to continue to appeal to a youth market they must behave ethically, both in the manufacture of goods, by using ethical labour and by paying for their designs. This could turn into a PR disaster for H&M who have stated; “We employ an independent team of over 100 designers. We can assure you that this design has not been influenced by your work and that no copyright has been infringed.”

Eventually, H&M halted the purge and issued a pseudo-apology on the H&M facebook page:

“We apologies if anyone should think we have copied, which has never been our intention and also not allowed. We have merely been inspired, after seeing many different varieties with different text messages, to create something similar in a different font, with the use of big and small brackets and the placement of the shaped heart. We are truly sorry if we have led someone to believe that we intentionally should have copied someone else’s creation”.

Founded in 1947, H&M is a global fashion brand and pioneer of design collaborations with style icons such as Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garçons, Sonia Rykiel and Lanvin. H&M has over 2,300 stores in 43 countries and as of 2011 employed around 87,000 people. It is ranked the second largest global clothing retailer, just behind Spain-based Inditex (parent company of ZARA), and leads over third largest global clothing retailer, United States based GAP Inc. The design team in the company’s Sweden office controls the steps of production from merchandise planning to establishing specifications, and production is outsourced to approximately 800 factories in Europe and Asia. These facilities are used for horizontal division of labor rather than being integrated. All has not been smooth for the Swedish retailer this year who have had a reported drop in sales. The chain disappointed analysts with profits of SEK6.8bn (£640.9m) for the three months to 30 November, compared with SEK7.2bn (678.5m) a year earlier.  Sales were down by 3% in 2011 a good reason not to court bad publicity.