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Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute

Professor Johanna Gibson - Ink twice: Do you own your tattoos?

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In a recent article in The Metro on who 'owns' a tattoo, Johanna Gibson, Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law at QMUL, explained that “the tattooist holds copyright in the design itself, both in terms of any preliminary drawings or sketches and in terms of the actual applied artwork.” Commenting on celebrities with tattoos she says: “Ideally, the celebrity should get the copyright in the artwork assigned – so they own the copyright – or licensed, so that the tattooist can’t apply the same design to another customer. If the brand employs the celebrity in a campaign, then the tattoo artist could potentially claim infringement of their copyright.”