Truth or dare: Madonna, did you copy a Sydney artist's design?

Madonna's intellectual property dispute team has been busy in recent times. First, there was the allegation in February 2012 that she misappropriated the name 'Girls Gone Wild' from a US adult entertainment company when she used it as the title of the lead single from her latest album MDNA. See previous KatPost here. Now, there is the allegation that she infringed the copyright in an 'M' symbol of Sydney artist RJ Williams when she used a similar 'M' symbol on her new Truth or Dare by Madonna perfume.

RJ Williams, whose pieces have hung in the corridors of the Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, has recently claimed in The Sunday Telegraph that Madonna's 'M' symbol 'bears too much of a resemblance' to the symbol which he has 'been painting and using on clothing for eight years' and which he 'trademarked last year'. He further added: 'Friends from all over the world have been calling me upon seeing the Truth or Dare by Madonna campaign to express their disgust and support ... it's about my integrity as an artist ... I do not think it should be able to be used by a giant cosmetics company'.

Mr Williams has stated that he sent a legal letter to Madonna's agent, Guy Oseary, requesting that Madonna immediately stop infringing his copyright, provide him with all profits made so far and enter into a licence with him for future use of the symbol.

So far there has been no response from Mr Oseary or Madonna's legal team.

Image for TM No 1415347
The IPKat did some investigating on the Australian trade marks database and can confirm that Mr Williams has indeed registered his 'M' symbol. The trade mark (1415347) was registered on 30 January 2012 (with effect from 21 March 2011) only in Class 16 for art prints. Mr Williams was wise not to pursue the trade mark infringement argument, for as the IPKat noted in the 'Girls Gone Wild' scenario, having a US trade mark registration in Class 41 for 'GIRLS GONE WILD' did not grant the exclusive right to 'GIRLS GONE WILD' in every context. However, the IPKat cannot decide if Mr Williams's 'M' symbol is sufficiently original to be protected by copyright as an artistic work in the first place and if so original, whether Madonna has copied a substantial part of it in her 'M' symbol.

Merpel cannot help but think that Mr Williams might be overstating the situation when he claimed that 'all' profits made from Madonna's perfume were directly related to the use of the 'M' symbol.  Surely some of the profits were related to Madonna's reputation as the Material Girl and Queen of Pop herself?
Truth or dare: Madonna, did you copy a Sydney artist's design? Truth or dare: Madonna, did you copy a Sydney artist's design? Reviewed by Catherine Lee on Monday, May 07, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. The mark used on the perfume is made up of an 'M' (Madonna?) and a cross (a symbol often used by Madonna). The advert shown in the post clearly makes this connection. That is not to say the trademarked version was not used for inspiration or directly copied. However looking at the registered symbol I can discern an 'M' and even a 'T' but I cannot find any inspiration for the cross. Also, I see the 'M' partly because I already know it is there, but in reality, the central 'V' decends lower than the rest making me wonder whether it is really an 'M' at all.

    A clear case of a nobody jumping on someone else's fame for self-publicity.

    If we want to cut down on time an money spent in court then I suggest this blog is used as a zero-cost first pass filter to weed out such nonsense.

  2. And Madonna's symbol is an alteration of the symbol for the Blessed Virgin Mary, you know . . . Madonna!!

  3. My initial impression was that it resembled an upside-down version of the "Treen" logo that featured in the 1950's "Dan Dare" comic strips in the "Eagle".

  4. when I first saw Madonna's symbol on her perfume it reminded me of the Kabbalah symbol which she has used in the past -


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