Copyright infringement is serious business. In the tattoo world, design infringement can mean that an honest artist loses a substantial amount of money when a dishonest one steals and markets work that doesn't belong to them.
It was heartening to see that the 4th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees and ruled in favor of the tattoo artist who was getting ripped-off in this case.
© December 17, 2012
Joe DuFresne, known professionally as J.D. Crowe, spent the better part of a year fighting to launch tattoo parlors in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake before opening in the cities about a decade ago.
DeFresne recently won an even longer legal battle. A federal appeals court last week upheld a $500,000 copyright infringement award, ending a court battle that dragged on more than three years.
With fees and interest to date, the total award tops $683,000.
DuFresne bills his company, Tattoo Art Inc., as creators of "the world's most popular tattoo designs." So popular that a Grand Rapids, Mich., company, TAT International, and its tattoo parlor, TatStore, bought a license to market Tattoo Art's designs.
Tattoo Art sued TAT for copyright infringement and breach of a licensing agreement after finding that TAT had altered some of its designs and were marketing them as its own, according to the court filings. (TAT had agreed to pay additional royalties but never did.)
U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis in Norfolk held a non-jury trial in March 2011 and found against TAT. TAT appealed, arguing that the damage award was "grossly disproportionate" to the actual damages and "constitutionally excessive." The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld Davis' ruling last week.
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