Intellectual Property Rights Go Skin Deep

Intellectual Property Rights Go Skin Deep

In the colorful world of tattoos, there are some really good ones and really bad ones. Good or bad, the person displaying the tattoo has to own it. According to one tattoo company, the artist who inked the tatt owns it too.

Earlier this month, Solid Oak Sketches filed a complaint against Visual Concepts, 2K Games, and Take-Two Interactive Software, the creators of the popular video-game franchise “NBA2K,” alleging copyright infringement when the likenesses of the tattoos on specific high-profile NBA players appeared on the video screen as well.

This legal matter has come up several times before. Most notably, when S. Victor Whitmill, the artist responsible for Mike Tyson’s famous facial ink sued Warner Bros. over the art’s appearance in “Hangover 2,” Whitmill vs. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Prior to the settlement, in which Whitmill was awarded $22,500 for his work, the judge commented: “Of course tattoos can be copyrighted. I don’t think there is any reasonable dispute about that.”

In its complaint, Solid Oak Sketches claims copyright on eight original designs, including a child’s portrait, a crown with butterflies and a wizard, imprinted on five NBA players, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kenyon Martin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. The complaint states that the “copyrighted tattoo designs easily satisfy [the] standard for originality” as set by the Supreme Court.

Previous to the complaint, the tattoo company stated the alleged value for use of these images equals $819,500 and offered a perpetual license for $1,144,000, which the video-game makers declined. The plaintiff now seeks $150,000 per infringement, which, as Ars Technica notes, could total billions in damages as millions of copies of the video game have sold.

Sound off below with your opinion on this case or bad tattoos.

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