They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But as you might imagine, this cliché rings less true when you’re a Brooklyn-based street artist and the imitator is a globe-spanning corporation that raked in $16 billion in revenue last year.
Maya Hayuk, a reputable mural artist known for her brightly colored, geometric paintings, is suing Starbucks for allegedly copying her work in an advertisement for frappuccinos. The copyright infringement lawsuit demands $750,000 in damages from the coffee-slinging megacorporation.
Although it’s not easy to copyright colors, shapes, and lines, it’s even harder to deny that the art used in Starbucks’s campaign bears a striking resemblance to the work Hayuk produces. A defendant in a case like this might argue that the resemblance is pure coincidence, but that might be a hard sell: Hayuk says Starbucks reached out to her via their creative agency, expressing admiration for her work and inquiring about hiring her for a project. She ultimately turned the offer down, only to spot some familiar-looking imagery in a frappuccino promotional campaign some months later.
It’s not the first time Starbucks has been accused of lifting an artist’s work. In 2011, designer Ophelia Chong noticed that the artwork used on the company’s French roast coffee packaging looked remarkably similar to an illustration of her own. Ultimately, Chong decided not to pursue legal action against the company.