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Case Law Corner

Keeping track of lawsuits involving artworks, cultural property, artists’ estates, galleries, etc.


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216 case law

Donnelly et al v. Anand et al.

November 18, 2023
No. 1:2021cv09562

The U.S. District Court in NY awarded KAWS, otherwise known as Brian Donnelly,  just under $1 million  in damages against several companies he worked with in Singapore who were found  guilty of reproducing knockoffs of KAWS works. Dylan Joy An Leong Yi Zhi and two associated companies in Singapore, Penthouse Theory and the Penthouse Collective, replicated KAWS’ “Companion” figure, as well as many other works including art, toys and skateboards, ultimately reproducing 154 variations of KAWS creations. The Singaporian companies have made over $63 million USD from selling KAWS items. Since 2020, KAWS and his legal team have been sending takedown notices and cease-and-desist letters. In November 2021, they filed a complaint against Leong and his associated companies, and on May 2, 2023, the U.S. Court in the Southern District of New York ruled that Leong must pay KAWS $900,000 in damages. The case represents an important international precedent for enforcing copyright protections globally. Singapore, under a common law system, recognizes U.S. court decisions, and enforces them.  You can view the filings for the case HERE.


Donnelly et al v. Anand et al., No. 1:2021cv09562 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 18, 2021)

Roberts v. Richard Beavers Gallery et al.

August 1, 2023
No. 1:2022-CV-04516

Deborah Roberts, a well known collage artist based in Austin, Texas, is suing Lynthia Edwards and her gallery, alleging copyright infringement. In her complaint, Roberts alleges that Edwards intentionally copied Roberts’ distinctive artistic style to confuse potential buyers. Roberts filed the complaint in August in New York’s Eastern District. Attorney for the Defense, Luke Nikas, described the lawsuit as “An attempt to prevent [his client] from thriving in the same artistic space and tradition as Roberts.”


Roberts v. Richard Beavers Gallery et al., No. 1:2022-CV-04516 (E.D.N.Y August 1, 2023).

Alan Philipp v. Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz

July 14, 2023
D.C. Cir.
No. 1:15-cv-00266

In 1935, a consortium of German art firms owned by Jewish individuals sold several artifacts to Prussia. In 2015, the plaintiffs—two U.S. citizens and one U.K. citizen—initiated a lawsuit in the federal district court, claiming that their ancestors, part of the consortium, were forced into selling the artifacts by members of the Nazi government for much less than their true market value. The original complaint named both the Federal Republic of Germany and Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), which currently administers the museum where the artifacts are displayed, as defendants. In this appeal, defendant  SPK  asserted an immunity defense under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The Supreme Court noted that the FSIA establishes a presumption of immunity from lawsuits for foreign states and recognized the domestic takings rule, which maintains immunity for foreign states and their agencies in cases involving a foreign sovereign’s taking of its own nationals’ property (Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp (Philipp III), 141 S. Ct. 703 (2021)). To evade this bar, the plaintiffs presented a new argument claiming that their ancestors were not German nationals at the time of the 1935 sale. The district court ruled that this claim was not preserved, as it was not raised in their original or amended complaints. On July 14, 2023, the Court of Appeals upheld the decisions of the district court,  deciding that ____, as the plaintiffs could have raised their non-German-nationals theory from the beginning, but failed to do so.


Alan Philipp v. Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz,No. 1:15-cv-00266 (D.C. Cir., Jul 14, 2023).

Cyrus Hodes v. Stability AI LTD, et al.

July 13, 2023
N.D. Cal
No. 3:23-cv-03481

Tech entrepreneur Cyrus Hodes, who co-founded Stability AI with CEO Mohammad Emad Mostaque in 2020, is suing Stability AI. The company is known for the text-to-image generation product Stable Diffusion. Hodes alleged that Mostaque willfully deceived him about the value of the company, which led to Hodes selling off his 15 percent stake in the company in 2021 and 2022 for $100. This was his only compensation for 18 months of work. Afterwards, the company engaged in funding rounds with a much higher valuation. Hodes’ learned that his former stake was worth over half a billion dollars. Hodes is seeking to reinstate his stake, or receive an equivalent reward for rescissory damages, and additional rewards for monetary and punitive damages.


Cyrus Hodes v. Stability AI LTD, et al., No. 3:23-cv-03481 (N.D. Cal, July 13, 2023).