Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

Artwork subject of intellectual property litigation in Manhattan

A complex lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Manhattan. The suit stems from from an intellectual property dispute involving a work of art that lies at the center of a challenging set of legal circumstances.

The work, entitled "The Mechanism of Meaning," is a series of paintings by Arakawa and Madeline Gins, who passed away in 2010 and 2014, respectively. The piece itself dates back to the early 1960s. A second edition sold for $3 million in 1989 and both are presumably worth significantly more today.

The artists eventually established the Architectural Body Research Foundation and, according to the ABRF, gave "The Mechanism of Meaning" to the foundation in 1987 along with all associated intellectual property rights. In 2008, the ABRF learned that it was one of many victims of the Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff and that its accounts with Madoff were practically worthless. Within a few years, the artists formed a new foundation: the Reversible Destiny Foundation.

The RDF, according to the recent lawsuit, is violating the ABRF's intellectual property rights by claiming ownership of "The Mechanism of Meaning" and trying to sell it. Complicating matters further is the fact that the ABRF had taken money out of its Madoff accounts, and a trustee in that matter is seeking more than $3 million from the foundation -- funds which the ABRF claims it cannot repay if it cannot sell "The Mechanism of Meaning."

At the core of this intellectual property litigation is the document purportedly giving the ABRF ownership of the work. Representatives of the RDF claim the document actually refers to the second edition, mentioned above. The parties point to various details in the document and the timeline surrounding the events in trying to prove their claims.

These are the kind of fine-grained details that experienced intellectual property attorneys are accustomed to tracking down and bringing to light. A professional legal representative can help protect an individual's or a business's rights, particularly when a dispute is complicated by multiple layers of legal challenges.

Source: ARTnews, "Foundation Claims Ownership of Arakawa and Gins's Sprawling 'The Mechanism of Meaning' Piece [UPDATED]," Sarah Douglas, Oct. 10, 2017

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