Things are about to get surreal in the San Francisco courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler.
The Spanish foundation that administers the IP rights of famed surrealist Salvador Dali is suing a Monterey museum that displays a permanent Dali exhibition and uses the artist’s name and likeness to promote it.
“Things are about to get surreal” is the slogan of Dali17, which bills itself as the first permanent Dali exhibition on the West Coast and the largest private collection being shown in the United States. It comprises original etchings, mixed media, lithographs and sculptures tied to Dali’s years spent in Monterey during World War II. Dali17 refers to the 17-mile drive that circles much of the town.
The foundation’s primary complaint appears to be the use of Dali’s name, likeness and some famous Dali works not owned by the museum to promote the exhibition.
“Without authorization from the foundation, defendants have opened a museum under the name and mark DALI17, have misappropriated Salvador Dalí’s name and likeness to advertise and promote their museum, and have reproduced and displayed copyrighted artworks,” the complaint signed by Noel Cook of Owen, Wickersham & Erickson stated. “Defendants have been informed that their conduct is unlawful, but remain undeterred and continue to advertise and provide goods and services infringing on the foundation’s intellectual property and publicity rights.”
Cook and Linda Joy Kattwinkel of Owen Wickersham are providing local counsel to David Donahue, Melissa Goldstein and Jessica Vosgerchian of Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, who are lead counsel to Fundacio-Gala Salvador Dali. The foundation said it has been authorized by the Kingdom of Spain to exclusively manage and enforce IP rights arising from Dali, who died in 1989.
It’s not clear yet who is representing the museum. An email sent to the museum Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.
Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass partner Lawrence Siskind, who’s not involved in the case, said at first blush it sounds as if the foundation has a strong case. If the museum called itself “The Museum of Surrealism” and exhibited Dali retrospectives, that probably wouldn’t break any laws. It could even create a website called DaliSucks.com and publish commentary and criticism about his artwork.
But use of “Dali” as part of the museum’s name might imply that Dali’s heirs or owners of the rights have authorized use the name, or endorsed the museum, Siskind said.
The complaint further alleged that the museum has reproduced and displayed copyrighted works to promote the museum in advertising and social media. It alleged violations of trademark, publicity right, copyright and unfair competition laws.
“Defendants’ unauthorized acts unfairly and unlawfully wrest from the foundation control over its DALI marks and its reputation,” the complaint stated, “particularly as the foundation has no control over the quality of defendants’ goods or services offered under the DALI17 mark.”
Read the complaint: