A US real estate mogul accused of commissioning a Chinese artist to create unauthorized copies of other artists’ works was ordered to pay $450,000 in damages after he was found guilty this week of systematic trademark infringement.
Artist Don Wakefield said he’d sent emails to Igor Olenicoff’s company, Olen Properties, back in 2004 with links of his work, including a sculpture called Untitled, according to Artnet News. Four years later he came across a sculpture at a property in Newport Beach that looked so much like his Untitled, he first believed it was the original, although this one was titled Human Natures: Many Faces and was dated 2005.
He said in his complaint:
In or about January 2010, Wakefield discovered three copies of ‘Untitled’ at an Olen Properties location in Irvine, California. Two of these copies were unaltered copies of ‘Untitled,’ and the third is an unauthorized derivative work which was entitled ‘A Tear Must Fall.’ It was only upon discovery of these three sculptures that Wakefield realized that the sculpture he discovered in Newport Beach was, in fact, an unauthorized copy and not the original.
It was discovered that the artist behind both Human Natures: Many Faces and A Tear Must Fall was a Chinese sculptor named Zhou Hong.
Not long after, another sculptor named John Raimondi filed a complaint against Olenicoff. He said the tycoon contacted back in 2001 to make editions for a commission worth between $100,000 and $250,000. After Raimondi provided photos and drawings of the work, Olenicoff canceled the meetings and. Months later, a similar scenario similar to Wakefield’s unfolded:
Raimondi was contacted by a representative from the City of Brea who noticed the works at defendants’ buildings which attributed credit to a Chinese artist. The representative was aware that the works had previously been submitted to the City of Brea by defendants listing Raimondi as the artist and thus advised of the infringement. At no point did Raimondi authorize the defendants’ manufacture, replication or public display of the sculptures.
Olenicoff, who’s had a number of previous run-ins with the law, must now hand over $450k to Wakefield. Still small change considering Olenicoff places on Forbe’s world rich list with a net worth of 3.1 billion USD.
Raimondi’s trial begins July 24.
[Image: Flickr via artnet.com]