A note about the webshop

Index ⇱
On Tuesday, September 24th, the online store provider “Stores.jp” closed our BarbarianBook.shop without warning citing trademark infringement / the selling of counterfeit products.

The item in question is an Anti-Supreme T-shirt which we designed and screen printed in a small edition. The shirt features the Supreme “logo” coupled with the infamous “peeing Calvin” and the phrase “stop being stupid” in English and Japanese.

Supreme is an apparel company that built its image appropriating skateboarding and street culture; much of their early content attempted to portray a notion of rebellion, often stealing and altering images from high fashion brands to make a statement. Observers may note irony in the fact that the billion dollar company now goest to great lengths to protect its intellectual property and persecute those they deem threatening to their profit.

Over the past few years, Supreme has been involved in several costly court battles concerning the logo and its legality. These have included Supreme Italia( a company that registered the logo in China and obtained legal rights to use it on apparel) and Leah McSweeny (another streetwear company owner who was forced to forfeit her “SUPREME BITCH” trademark rights and settle outside court) to name a few of the high profile ones.

This is not to mention the difficulty Supreme has had registering the logo as a trademark in the first place with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office—the USPTO has claimed the logo is too descriptive (the word supreme itself) and the box font combination lacks a distinctive character. From a legal perspective, the Supreme logo is extremely vulnerable, especially when one applies the parody defense to the case (and excludes the intimidation and legal aid Supreme can afford to silence its critics with).

Of course, it goes without mentioning that the logo itself was stolen from another New Yorker; the italicized white Futura in a red rectangle was popularized first and foremost by the artist Barbara Kruger since the 1970’s. In 2013, regrading the publicized legal battles over the logo she had this to say: “What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers. I make my work about this kind of sadly foolish farce. I'm waiting for all of them to sue me for copyright infringement.”

Predictably, the Supreme logo is registered in Japan, especially given there are six stores in the country. Whether someone affiliated with the company or with stores.jp flagged our shirt is not clear, but the power of corporations to censor, harass, and ultimately terminate someone’s potential financial source of income is crystal. To state the obvious, we’re a tiny print space in the countryside of Japan. Our web shop is not very popular, nor was the shirt flying off the shelves—to be honest, we only printed about 30; regardless, our entire webshop was deemed fit for closure.

Rather than fight the decision, which will undoubtedly lead to the compromise of having to remove the shirt from our stock, we’ve decided to stop using the service all together. Please bear with us as we set up something temporary in the meantime. We realize the ability to purchase zines and printed goods from our space online is valuable, and we also appreciate the opportunity—every little bit helps in going towards supporting the space, buying supplies, doing workshops, and being able to print more.

The reason we’re making this statement public, besides the laughably Kafka-esque premise of the whole thing, is simply to emphasize the capitalistic machine we dwell in and the goons that are tasked with making sure it runs as smoothly as possible. Freedom of speech is an illusion when you discover the limits—it’s up to the rest of us to consistently challenge these boundaries.

A pdf of the the anti-Supreme T-shirt design is available for download for those wishing to make their own shirts, stickers, etc… free, of course.