Friday frivolity: Beyonce's pirated bikini

In what has to be one of the more bizarre copyright disputes, the underwear manufacturer Triumph sued Sony because Beyoncé was wearing copyright infringing underwear in her music video "Video Phone". Seriously.

The design in question by Bulgarian designer Iskren Lozanov is shown on the right, the music video below (the infringement occurs at about 0.50'). This week, the 7th Civil Chamber of the Landgericht Munich upheld an ex parte injunction barring Sony from distributing the "Video Phone" clip in Germany.

Triumph argued Beyoncé was wearing an unauthorized reproduction of the Iskren Lozanov design. Sony countered that both designs were inspired by Picasso, but otherwise, there were few similarities. The slips, in particular, were wholly different. The judge disagreed: the Lozanov design was highly original and enjoyed a wide scope of protection, and was therefore infringed by the underwear worn by Beyoncé.

Sony's lawyer announced that, after consultation with Beyoncé, he would most likely appeal the decision.

The IPKat thinks that studying the file for this case must have been more fun than your average pharma patent case. Merpel adds, if you weren't a cat, I'd call you a chauvinist pig.

German news article here
Friday frivolity: Beyonce's pirated bikini Friday frivolity: Beyonce's pirated bikini Reviewed by Mark Schweizer on Friday, February 12, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. Good decision of the Court! Surely it was not coincidental that the accessories were also similar; both had on layered bracelets on and white framed glasses. They even have almost the same hairstyle! Surely the lawyers could not have been able to argue that the accessories were independent creations derived only from Picasso?

    In any event, it looks more like Miro than Picasso.

  2. Reading the news report, I'm not clear what the basis for injuncting the video was - is it some form of equitable relief to prevent Sony from benefiting from their use of an infringing product?

    Also, it's written up above as a copyright dispute, but the test applied was that of "Gesamteindruck" or overall impression, suggesting it came down to design rights, rather than copyright.

  3. What about the Tarantino’s cinematographic opening? Mix, remix, re-remix …

  4. @ MTPT: from the press statements, it's unclear whether the claim was based on (unregistered?) design right or copyright. If a reader has the reasons for the decision, we are happy to post them. Send to

  5. There's a little more detail here:

    Again it's called a copyright dispute, but the language attributed to that of the judges is clearly that of a design question.

    Will be very interested to hear more about this - in a past life I used to field the clearance requests from broadcasters when my retailer employer's products were incidentally included, and support product placement (fashion shoots/makeovers) work.

    Given the regularity with which retailers get accused of creating infringing garments, it would have serious implications if an IP owner could injunct publication of images of the infringing item...

  6. Having looked at the two garments I'm not convinced you know, although I haven't read the judgement yet.

    But it seems to me that if you put the clothes side by side (ie without the concept of putting a model inside them) they look quite different.

    I think the judge may have stepped onto the wrong side of the idea-expression dichotomy.

  7. Absolutely stupid case, but correctly decided. Why could Lady Gaga not simply have bought the Triumph underwear and used that? Perhaps they tried and were told that the proposed use would displease Triumph. Perhaps they even tried to get it for free against "exposure". Could Triumph have prevailed if they wanted to bar the use of the underwear for this purpose? Do customers sign an undertaking only to use the underwear in private?

    On another blog post, just below: in view of a recent decision that takes the free use of descriptive language away from common man, why cannot the Bavarian State government register 'Mein Kampf' to prevent unauthorized use, such as on a book title. Obviously they have to use it themselves, but that could be on the finance minister's printed budget, indicating his difficulties in making ends meet. Or is it only Berlin that has a deficit.

    Kind regards,

    George Brock-Nannestad

  8. Dear IPKat, while the reasons appear to be not available, the following 2 articles might be of some help; we may remain with this topic for some time obviously.

  9. I agree with MTPT that the premise of and the language used in making the decision is more "unregistered design right" than copyright.

    Can anyone shed any light on why Triumph would claim copyright breach and why the court would appear to have accepted that claim?


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