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McDonald’s Graffiti – Artist’s Estate Not Lovin’ It

McDonald’s Graffiti – Artist’s Estate Not Lovin’ It

Why is global fast food chain McDonald’s being sued for copying graffiti?

12th October 2016
Reading Time: 2 minutes

McDonald’s is being sued for copyright and trademark breach, as well as negligence for using graffiti designs from deceased artist Dash Snow on the walls of their restaurants. Let’s examine the issues surrounding the alleged breach.

To find out more about the importance of protecting trademarks and your intellectual property, read our article.


American artist Dash Snow was known for spraying his “SACE” tag on locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as paying the homeless to tag their clothes. The executor of Snow’s estate alleges that McDonald’s is displaying this tag in their restaurants, without properly acknowledging Snow as the artist.

It is also alleged that McDonald’s did not comply with formal requests for removal of the designs in June 2016, resulting in the current court proceedings.

The plaintiffs argue that Snow never intended for his work to be displayed in a commercial environment, with corporate consumerism as the stark contrast to what the deceased graffiti artist represented. The lawsuit also claims that McDonald’s use of Snow’s piece will affect the value of his six-figure priced pieces, which have been displayed in galleries around the world.


It appears that copyright breaches are becoming increasingly prevalent in the design industry. If you are an artist, it is important to be aware of how copyright can protect your designs.

In 2014, Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was sued for allegedly incorporating graffiti street designs into one of his collections. Ultimately, this case was settled but the details were not disclosed.

Similarly, earlier this year, Italian design brand Moschino also settled a copyright case against them by artist Joseph Tierney.

Major fashion label Zara was also alleged to have stolen design ideas from an independent illustrator in July 2016, but in this case the artist received no response from Zara.


The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief for McDonald’s to remove the display of “SACE” from the restaurant’s interiors. It will be interesting to see how this case turns out.

For clarification on your legal rights as a designer, artist or creator you should consult an IP attorney.

What are your thoughts on copyright for graffiti work? Let us know by tagging us @LawPath

Carmen Zhu

Carmen is a Paralegal working in our content team which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With an interest in consumer and professional negligence law, her primary focus is on the importance of expanding legal awareness to business longevity.