On August 23, 2010, The Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, which controls the licensing rights to Adams’s work, filed a federal trademark infringement suit in San Francisco as part of an effort to block the sale of prints by Rick Norsigian, a painter in a school maintenance department, who bought the negatives 10 years ago for $45 at a garage sale in Fresno.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, seeks to stop Rick Norsigian and consulting firm PRS Media Partners from using Adams’ name, likeness and trademark in their efforts to sell prints and posters not authorized or endorsed by the Trust.
The suit alleges trademark infringement, false advertising, trademark dilution, unfair competition and other claims. It does not specify damages but asks the court to order the defendants to pay restitution of their profits from any sales, as well as award any other monetary relief.
“Mr. Adams was fond of likening a negative to a composer’s score and the prints to its performance — each performance differs in subtle ways,” the lawsuit said. “The photographic prints and posters offered for sale by defendants … are not an Ansel Adams ‘performance.’ ”
The suit says the defendants are improperly and unlawfully trading on Adams trademark and deliberately confusing consumers.
Norsigian’s lawyer, Arnold Peter, said the lawsuit has no merit and is designed to harass his client and “silence this debate.”