Dentons wins u12K in Matisse copyright case

Denton Hall has won u12,000 on behalf of the Matisse family, a year after taking over the instruction from Stephens Innocent.

A copyright claim was brought against Phaidon Press in 1992 by Les Heritiers Matisse, the family of the French artist Henri Matisse, through Stephens Innocent.

However, the firm was taken off the case in August 1998 and replaced by Denton Hall, which this month reached an out-of-court settlement and an injunction against Phaidon Press for the use of Matisse's work in six of the company's publications.

Robin Fry, a partner in the intellectual property department at Stephens Innocent, says: “I think the person dealing with it at the time moved to an in-house position and [the Matisse family] needed a different firm to work on it.”

Commenting on the fact that the firm had spent six years on the case by the time Denton Hall took over, Fry says: “There was quite a lot of complexity involved, probates had to be obtained from the Matisse family.”

However, a source says: “The family wanted a fresh set of lawyers as the case had gone on for so long. It is not the fault of Stephens Innocent, the family just felt they wanted to go with a new firm.

“When the case came to the point that it had gone on for so long, they wanted to appoint someone to show that they were serious.”

The proceedings began after Phaidon refused to pay royalties for reproducing works of art.

The publisher, represented by Clifford Chance, said its use of Matisse's works was fair under Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which allows the reproduction of work for criticism and review.

However, Suzanne Garben, a partner in the media litigation department at Denton Hall who headed the case with support from assistant solicitors Michelle Peters and Ruth Hoy, says: “The inference given from them paying royalties is that they would have not won on that point if it had gone to trial.”