Friday, May 19, 2006

Seattle Times : Glass blower to court: Let me make any glass forms I want

Chihuly news in the Seattle Times today ...

Glass blower to court: Let me make any glass forms I want

By Susan Kelleher
Seattle Times staff reporter

The high artistic and economic stakes in the copyright battle between
glass artist Dale Chihuly and two glass blowers were laid out in stark
terms Thursday when one of the glass blowers asked a court's
permission to continue making lopsided glass forms in any color he

Shelton glass artist Bryan Rubino, who was sued by Chihuly last year
for alleged copyright violations, made the unusual request in a
counterclaim filed in U.S. District Court.

The countersuit alleges Chihuly is trying to claim "a monopoly on any
and all glass art that is curved, nested or uses certain kinds of
colors. [Chihuly] cannot use copyright registrations to protect an
idea or process that is so elementary that it would preclude any other
glass artist from working or creating any glass art at all."

To illustrate the potential impact of a court ruling on the question,
Rubino's lawyer, Scott Wakefield, attached images from a dozen glass
artists and studios around the country whose work is both asymmetrical
and colorful like Chihuly's.

Chihuly spokeswoman Janet Makela said the studio would not comment on
that and other allegations in Rubino's counterclaim because it doesn't
discuss litigation.

Chihuly sued Rubino and Redmond art entrepreneur Robert Kaindl in
October, accusing them of copying his designs and selling "knockoffs"
at several local galleries. Last week, Chihuly alleged in court
documents that the two had pored over books of Chihuly's works and
picked out designs that Rubino would make for Kaindl to sell.

Kaindl denied the accusations, and early this month he alleged in
court documents that Chihuly is not involved in conceiving, creating,
designing or even signing a "substantial number" of artworks that bear
the Chihuly name.

Rubino also denies Chihuly's charges and challenges Chihuly's image as
the sole designer of work that bears his name. In the claim filed
Thursday, Rubino says he created or co-authored some of the works that
Chihuly is suing to protect, and that some of the work he did for the
artist was done "without any creative input whatsoever from (Chihuly
Inc.) or Dale Chihuly."

As evidence, Rubino submitted a fax he says he received from Chihuly.
The fax includes sticklike drawings and the following instructions:
"Here's a little sketch but make whatever you want. We'll get
everything up to Tacoma when you're done and I'll try to come down
while you're blowing. Till then, Chihuly."

The fax was dated Dec. 10, 2003, when Rubino was working as an
independent contractor for Chihuly. Rubino collaborated with Chihuly
from 1988 to 2004, both as an employee and an independent contractor.

Rubino is asking the court to declare him a co-author of some of
Chihuly's more famous pieces, and award him profits associated with
those works.

Chihuly acknowledged in his suit that "Rubino worked on virtually
every series created by Chihuly." But he claimed that Rubino signed
away any rights to the work when he was Chihuly's employee, and that
as a contractor, all of the work Rubino made for Chihuly was done
under Chihuly's direction and control.

Sanjeev Narang


email: ask {*at*} eConsultant dot com
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