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Artist Files Suit Against A&F, Hollister Co.

Suit Filed by Prominent Artist Alleges Unlawful Use of Copyrighted Materials and Personal Identity (March 08, 2006)

In a lawsuit filed today by attorneys representing 36-year-old professional artist Robb Havassy of Orange County, Calif., Havassy alleges Hollister Co. and parent company Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) are liable for the unauthorized use of Havassys artwork and personal identity in the retailers national in-store marketing and branding.

In the suit, Havassy seeks remuneration for the use of his artwork and name by Hollister over the past several years, and for any future use.  He also requests public acknowledgment that they used his graphic designs without his knowledge and permission.

According to Havassy, a reproduction of one of his popular ?surf art surfboards, made to exacting detail, is prominently featured in the front area displays of all 300 Hollister stores nationwide, serving as the only persisting piece of surf merchandise the retailer has used to brand its "surf style" aesthetic over the course of the past few years.

?It's a subtle but clear claim that seems to say, ?We are a surf brand, suggests Havassy. ?But theyre from Ohio. They might sell garments that look similar to those of the core surf brands, but Hollister is in a niche that surf-born brands are not.

Southern California-born-and-raised Havassy, a well-know and collected artist in the action sports industry, was initially surprised to hear that Hollister store displays across the United States featured one his signature surfboards emblazoned with his original art and handwritten signature and date.  



"I began to hear rumors that one of my surf-art boards was in the local Hollister store, said Havassy. ?Considering that I had no contact with A&F or Hollister, I figured people were mistaken. I came to find out that a local surfboard manufacturer had a deal to replicate authentic surfboards for display in Hollister stores and that one of them was a copy of one of my painted boards, so I figured Id look into it.

?When I actually saw one of the forged replicas in the front of a local Hollister store, I was confused at first, because it looked exactly like my original: it had the same repair marks and blemishes, and even my signature on it.  It blew my mind.

?I give them credit for doing a really good job matching it exactly.  The only obvious thing that set it off from my original was that they changed the original surfboard company and shaper's logos into Hollister logos.

Havassy punctuates his surmisal with a quote he suggests was delivered in November of 2005, wherein A&F CEO Michael Jefferies suggested, "An intense focus on getting it exactly right is why A&F is better positioned now than it has ever been."

?To see my art and signature next to their company logos was disturbing, to say the least, especially when you consider that anyone walking by could see it, says Havassy.  ?I mean, if people want to shop at Hollister, thats cool, but my credibility as an authentic surf artist goes down the tubes if someone sees me in bed with a Midwest apparel company and its marketing.

"It's frustrating on a number of levels to have had control over my work taken-away from me, and then be associated with a company that I wouldn't choose to work with under normal circumstances, especially considering the reflection it casts on me with respect to the companies that have legitimately supported and promoted me and my art worldwide.

In addition to Havassy's iconic surfboard art, which is the only example of surf aesthetic featured in the store's front-entrance display and appears to serve as a marquee, several other nondescript surfboards pepper the showroom at various spots, visible once inside.

ABOUT ROBB HAVASSY:

Havassy, whose original artwork sells for upwards of tens-of-thousands-of-dollars, is arguably one of the most successful artists of his generation.  In addition to being one of the surf culture's most celebrated and collected artist, his work was featured as the official cover art for literature supporting last years AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am of Golf championship, one of the Professional Golf Associations (PGAs) most popular stops.

"Robb Havassy's cover art for the 2005 tournament was one of the most popular in the events history," said Cathy Scherzer, Pebble Beach Co. director of marketing.  

Havassys partnerships with the core action sports industry include the likes of Reef, Op, Robert August and Howe Jeans.  He is currently art directing and collaborating on an upcoming feature film documentary of surf culture, and is working on new apparel lines for Reef, Robert August, F54, and his own eponymous brand.  Additionally, he is in negotiations pursuant to a licensing deal with a prominent winery, which intends to feature Havassy artwork on its bottle labels.

Havassy balances his commercial focus with a devotion to environmental concerns and youth-related philanthropies. He has been closely involved with the Surfrider Foundation, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA), Heal the Bay, and Surf Aid International over the past decade, helping raise eco-awareness, and is credited with more than $50,000 of donation proceeds from his art donations and total contribution approaching six figures.

"For almost a decade, Robb's art has been an integral part of many Surfrider Foundation initiatives?from participating in many art auctions to fund clean water programs, to creating his annual "Surf Odyssey" Surf Art calendar benefiting Surfrider Foundation, and even creating T-shirt designs for Surfrider apparel, said Jim Moriarty, executive director of Surfrider Foundation.  ?He's shown the highest level of commitment to our cause.

Last year, Havassy worked with Reef, a wholly owned subsidiary of VF Corp. (NASDAQ: VFC), on its footwear and apparel line, as well as a special edition surf art poster for Tsunami Relief, which allocated 100% of sales proceeds to Surf Aid International.  To date, the print has raised over $15,000 for the ongoing Indonesian relief effort.

"Robb is both an amazing artist and true waterman, as he reflects the authenticity and soul of the sport through his creative work," says Dick Baker, president of Ocean Pacific (Op), a division of Warnaco (NASDAQ: WRNC) and SIMA president.  ?He is a legend in the world of surf art and his work has been an integral part of the lifestyle of the sport.

SIMA director Sean Smith says: "It goes without saying that Robb is a very talented artist and that his work is absolutely stunning," says Sean Smith, executive director of SIMA. "We are doubly blessed in that Robb is not only talented, but also a passionate surfer who cares about the ocean."

Havassy has been the featured artist for the SIMA's annual fundraiser, The Waterman's Ball, four of the past six years, and his work has generated the highest auction bids for artwork in the event's history.


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Related Keywords:Robb Havassy, A&F, Hollister Co., lawsuit

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