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Intellectual property lawsuit claims theft of origami designs

An abstract painter is the target of a legal dispute claiming that she improperly used an origami artist’s designs without his consent. The artist who filed the intellectual property lawsuit works in the Japanese art form of folding paper to make beautiful and ornate designs.

While many children in New Jersey and elsewhere experiment with origami by folding paper to make a crane and other simple-shaped animals, this origami artist’s designs are much larger and more complicated, such as a bull moose which began as a sheet of paper 40 inches long. He transformed it into a marvelously detailed 12-inch-tall sculpture with three dimensions. There are no fewer than 18 points on the moose’s antlers, each unique in its own way.

Like many modern origami artists, he uses computers and specialized software to create his artworks. His lawsuit claims that the abstract painter he’s suing based her paintings on his designs, beginning with paper crease patterns and then altering them in a variety of ways. In addition to not asking his permission, he charges, the woman also failed to give him credit, despite the fact that it is clear her paintings began with his designs, even though she alterered them.

The painter, on the other hand, maintains that because her work consists of paintings rather than photographs, she has not misappropriated his designs and presented them as her own. The origami artist retorts that his art, when placed on a painting of hers based on his work, will “line up” exactly if they are both the same size.

The origami artist believes that his copyright on his art has been violated, while the painter believes that it is her right as an artist to take images she sees in the world and transform them into something different, citing the works of Rauchenberg, Lichtenberg, and Warhol as prior artists who used this technique.

Can one art form directly infringe on another, even the media are radically different? That’s now up to an intellectual property law judge to determine.

Source: Southern California Public Radio, “Lawsuit between origami enthusiasts unfolds,” Sanden Totten, June 11, 2012

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