Clothing retailer H&M has filed a complaint for declaratory judgment after being threatened with legal action over its use of graffiti art in a marketing campaign.

The claim was filed on Friday, March 9 at the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Jason Williams, who goes under the moniker REVOK, threatened H&M with litigation after the retailer featured an image of graffiti which he claimed to have created in its online advertising. Williams allegedly demanded compensation from H&M.

In the claim, H&M said that Williams accused the retailer of copyright infringement, negligence and unfair competition.

H&M responded by saying that Williams “does not own or possess any copyright rights in certain graffiti that was painted on New York City property without the permission of the city of New York”.

H&M is also seeking a declaration that its use of the graffiti does not constitute unfair competition or negligence.

The graffiti is on a handball court in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. H&M hired a production company to conduct a photo shoot and promotional video at the court in October 2017.

In its claim, H&M said that a member of the production company sent an email to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation asking whether it needs to pay royalties for the use of the graffiti. In its reply, the department reportedly said that the graffiti should not be on the wall in the first place.

H&M said it received a letter from Williams’ representatives in January 2018 claiming that it “included Mr Williams’ original artwork in an advertising campaign for H&M products without his permission or knowledge”, constituting copyright infringement.

The retailer responded by claiming that the graffiti was unauthorised and constitutes vandalism. As a result, it alleged Williams does not have any copyright because “copyright protection is a privilege that does not extend to illegally created works”.

H&M seeks a declaration confirming that the defendant does not own copyright and is not entitled to any copyright protection for the graffiti. will keep you updated on this story as it develops.