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Court fight has happy ending

Robb Havassy, who won legal battle over his surfboard design, will raffle off 150 boards to benefit surfing museum.

May 15, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Artist Rob Havassy, 43, of Costa Mesa, will display and raffle off 150 surfboards at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday.
Artist Rob Havassy, 43, of Costa Mesa, will display and… (SCOTT SMELTZER )

After settling a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister Co., Robb Havassy ended up with 365 surfboards.

Ever since then, he's set out to diminish that number. On Thursday, he'll be raffling off 150 of the boards in Huntington Beach.

Sixteen years ago, the Costa Mesa resident painted and gifted a board to his friend — a Hollister Co. photographer who lived in Florida. When a photograph of Havassy's creation, with a purple phoenix on one side and a shield constructed from the words "peace," "love," "life" and "surf" on the other, reached the Ohio-headquartered apparel behemoth, it became a key part of the company's surf-centric ad campaign.

Hollister executives created exact replicas of the board, each one detailed and aged to rival the original, Havassy said, so they would reflect "a surf shack feel." His "RH" signature was replaced by "Hollister Co." logos on clear view in malls nationwide starting in 1999.

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"Surf culture is a big part of my life," said Havassy, 43, who found out about the usage in 2005. "And it was kind of a slap in my face. So I sued them for copyright infringement and right of publicity violations."

After a litany of litigation in federal court, Havassy, in an attempt to avoid spending the foreseeable future tied up in appeals, settled the case and later received all the boards the company had produced, including the original.

Attorney Derek Lemkin, part of the team that represented Havassy, said the terms of the settlement are confidential.

One hundred and fifty of the boards will be up for grabs at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum between 5 and 10 p.m. Thursday. Havassy will construct a large art installation with the surfboards, and all proceeds from the raffle will be contributed to the museum.

"I always wanted to recycle and upcycle these surfboards for collectors and museums and do various activities for fundraising purposes," he said. "I want to use them to do something positive, but they were created not to surf but simply to market a brand."

The Huntington Beach Downtown Art Walk has partnered with the museum to host the event. Art Walk, held the third Thursday of each month, is free and showcases art in local restaurants and businesses. A registration table with maps and wristbands will be located in the parking lot.

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