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National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art Plans to Take Action over Marimekko Infringement of Folk Artist’s Work

Last week, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art announced it plans to sue Marimekko, Finnish clothing and home furnishing company, for plagiarizing a design taken from Ukrainian folk artist Maria Primachenko. Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reported that a pattern Marimekko used in 2007 was almost identical to a 1963 print, Metsanvaki (“Forest Dwellers”), by the late artist. Marimekko has been using this design for over six years, and the museum plans to take legal action. Adriana Vyalets, the director of the museum, stated that it would “seek legal advice on this matter because [it was] a serious copyright violation.”

Marimekko designer Kristina Isola and the company confessed and apologized for the plagiarism. Isola said in a statement that she didn’t “think about copyright or that I took someone else’s creative work.[The artwork] felt so close to be and I wanted to share that forest feeling with as many people as possible.” Isola has been accused of plagiarism before, when she was allegedly copied the work of Finnish artists Maria Jauhiainen in 2005.

Marimekko is trying to minimize damage. Its artistic director, Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, expressed concern and remorse over the infringement. She stated that the company wants to take responsibility for its actions and compensate the rightful owners for the work. “We also started a discussion on the possibility of us supporting the museum in bringing a Maria Primachenko exhibition to Finland.” The story is not good news for Marimekko. Shares for Marimekko dropped by 2.2 percent within a few hours of the reported infringement. Earlier in May reported first-quarter loss due to its costly expansion in the United States and disappointing sales in Finland.

Also trying to minimize damage is Finnair, Finland’s largest airline. It has apologized for its use of the “Metsanvaki” design on its airbus 330 after discovering it was plagiarized. Finnair had entered into a deal with Marimekko, where the company was to provide textiles and tableware for the airline’s flights. The airline stated that “it came as a total shock to us” and “we don’t approve of using unlicensed work.”

Marimekko has been on the other side of litigation over its copyrights in the past. In 2007, it asked a German court to ban the sales of certain Dolce & Gabbana products, complaining that the Italian company was using its patterns without permission. The parties settled the dispute in 2008.

Sources: Reuters