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The foundation of the legendary Minimalist artist Donald Judd (1928-94) is suing the entrepreneur and reality television star Kim Kardashian and the Los Angeles-based interior design firm Clements Design, alleging that the firm misrepresented tables and chairs furnished for the offices of Skkn by Kim, Kardashian’s company, as authentic Judd designs.

The Judd Foundation’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday (27 March) in California’s central district court, accuses Kardashian and Clements Design of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, unfair competition, false advertising and false endorsement. The Judd Foundation is seeking any profits Kardashian and Clements Design may have received from the purported misrepresentation of the tables and chairs in question as genuine Judd works, and that all examples of the allegedly infringing furnishings be recalled and destroyed. The New York Times first reported the lawsuit.

The offending tables and their accompanying seats first came to widespread visibility in August 2022, when Kardashian posted a video tour of her company’s offices on YouTube (the video has since been deleted, but remains accessible via the Internet Archive). In the video, while presenting a large communal kitchen and dining room, Kardashian says: “If you guys are furniture people, I’ve really gotten into furniture lately, these Donald Judd tables are really amazing and totally blend in with the seats.” As of late January of this year, the video had been viewed more than 3.6 million times.

In its lawsuit, the Judd Foundation cites a design proposal Clements Design created for Skkn by Kim that includes two “dining tables in the style of Donald Judd” and 24 “dining chairs in the style of Donald Judd”. The accompanying illustrations of the products being offered, the lawsuit claims, are actually photos of authentic Judd furniture: his La Mansana Table 22 (1982) and Chair 84 (1982). A representative for the foundation told the Times that the table sells for $90,000 and the chairs for $9,000 each.

“Ms. Kardashian’s furniture is irrefutably fake. The existence of inauthentic furniture undermines the integrity of [Judd’s] original work which includes specifications of design, craftsmanship and materials,” Rainer Judd, the artist’s daughter and president of the Judd Foundation, said in a statement. “Today, Judd Foundation works directly with select fabricators to maintain the standards of quality he set for his furniture. This requires that all furniture that is made and sold with his name is made by Donald Judd Furniture.”

tTables and chairs by Donald Judd (left) and “in the style of Donald Judd” by Clements Design (right)

Megan K. Bannigan, a lawyer for the Judd Foundation, added: “This case is about protecting the intellectual property rights of Judd Foundation, including its trademarks and copyrights. […] The fake furniture has caused massive consumer confusion—with millions of Ms. Kardashian’s followers being misled to believe that the furniture in Ms. Kardashian’s office is real Donald Judd furniture. It also undermines Judd Foundation’s ability to control the quality of the works created using Donald Judd’s iconic designs and the goodwill that exists in those creations.”

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The Judd Foundation originally contacted Kardashian and Clements Design shortly after the video was posted, in the summer of 2022. At the time, the foundation demanded that the furnishings in question be destroyed and that Kardashian issue a public statement; her representatives instead offered to update the caption information in the video and create a separate social media post in which Kardashian promoted the Judd Foundation, an offer the foundation rejected.

A lawyer for Clements Design, John Ulin, countered that the firm’s furniture varied significantly from the Judd designs, including by using distinct types of wood and proportions. “They are different tables with different designs,” he wrote, according to the Times. The company reportedly believed the dispute had been resolved, and claimed not to have had contact with the Judd Foundation’s representatives in more than a year prior to this week’s legal filing. The foundation says in its lawsuit that it “attempted to resolve this issue with both Clements Design and Ms. Kardashian amicably and with reasonable requests. Judd Foundation is now left with no choice but to file this complaint”.

Rainer Judd added: “If creators’ works can simply be usurped with no repercussions and exploited by other people, what will be the protection for artists and designers to further create in the future?”

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