A prominent illustrator of North American fish species has sued a family-owned lodge in northern Maine over alleged copyright infringement.
Joseph R. Tomelleri of Leawood, Kansas, claims that Patrick and Sandy Patterson, the owners of Wheaton’s Lodge in Forest City Township, used his illustrations of landlocked Atlantic salmon and smallmouth bass without his permission on the lodge’s website.
The lodge is located on East Grand Lake in Washington County near the Canadian border. The artwork referred to in the lawsuit did not appear to be on the lodge’s website on Friday.
The artist is seeking unspecified damages including lost licensing revenue and an injunction ordering the lodge not to use his work. Tomelleri also is asking for up to $150,000 in damages per infringement, which is the amount allowed by law.
Phone calls and an email to the lodge were not returned as of Monday.
It is one of 70 cases Tomelleri’s attorneys have filed in more than two dozen states over the past 20 years or so. More than 30 were filed on the same day in December. Nearly all still are pending. A few of the older cases were dismissed quickly after apparently being settled but details are not included in court documents.
Over the past 30 years, Tomelleri has created more than 1,000 hand-drawn illustrations of fish in various life cycles, including illustrations of more than 900 unique species, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Tomelleri is “recognized as one of the world’s preeminent freshwater fish illustrators,” according to the suit, which claims that his illustrations are “used by scientists all over the world.”
Tomelleri’s Bangor attorney, Bernard Kubetz, who often represents the Bangor Daily News, said that his client is looking forward to his day in court.
“Joseph Tomelleri has worked his entire life to study and create unique hand illustrations of fish,” he said. “It is his passion and profession, and he has become a recognized expert in this field.
“His livelihood is based on his earnings from the sale of his illustrations, and those earnings support his creative efforts,” the lawyer added. “The copyright laws of the U.S. protect his work and prevent others from unlawfully using his creative works for their own commercial benefit.”
Pictures of the illustrations allegedly used without permission were not included in the lawsuit but can be seen on the artist’s website where he sells prints of the work. The copyright symbol is visible on each piece.
Tomelleri’s website also has a section about licensing fees for the use of his work.