Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian artist, started one of the art world’s biggest viral moments nearly three years ago when he sold a banana duct-taped to a wall for $120,000 at Art Basel Miami.

However, Joe Morford, a Glendale, California-based artist, claims that the world-renowned artist plagiarized his own 2000 artwork titled “Banana & Orange.” A federal judge in Florida’s Southern District has now ruled that Morford can proceed with his case against Cattelan, stating that Morford “sufficiently alleges that there is similarity in the (few) protected elements” of his artwork.

If the case goes to court, it will be held in Miami, where Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. denied Cattelan’s motion to dismiss the case last Wednesday.

“Fortunately for the Court,” Scola wrote in his ruling, “the question of whether a banana taped to a wall can be art is more a metaphysical question.” “However, the legal question before the Court may be just as difficult: did Morford adequately allege that Cattelan’s banana infringes on his banana?”

Morford is suing for more than $390,000 in damages, which is the total amount of Cattelan’s sales for three editions of the artworks, as well as court costs and travel expenses.

Cattelan gained international attention after selling three nearly identical versions of his banana artwork at the 2019 art fair, with the final piece fetching $150,000. The artwork, titled “Comedian,” went viral after being memed across the internet, and it made headlines again after a performance artist ripped the fruit from the wall and ate it. Cattelan wasn’t selling the original banana, but rather a certificate of authenticity and installation instructions, including the exact angle and height to tape the piece of fruit. Thanks to an anonymous donor, “Comedian” has since entered the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

After the artwork’s debut, Emmanuel Perrotin, founder of the Paris-based Perrotin art gallery, which represents Cattelan, told CNN that bananas are “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, and a classic device for humor.”

Cattelan, he says, transforms everyday objects into “vehicles of both delight and critique.”

Morford, on the other hand, claims that “Comedian” plagiarizes his own artwork, “Banana & Orange,” which he created nearly two decades ago. The titular fruits are duct taped to painted green backgrounds on a wall in “Banana & Orange.”

“I did this in the year 2000.” But in 2019, some dude steals my junk and pimps it for 120K+,” Morford wrote in a public Facebook post with an image of the artwork in 2019. “How much plagiarism?”

Morford, who is representing himself in court, registered the artwork with the US Copyright Office and posted it on his website, Facebook, and YouTube accounts long before Cattelan created “Comedian.”

Cattelan’s attorneys argued that Morford has “no valid copyright” to the artwork’s elements – the banana and the duct tape taped to a wall – but the court determined that Morford “may be able to claim copyright in the expression of that idea” through the “selection, coordination, (and) arrangement” of the elements.

“While using silver duct tape to affix a banana to a wall may not espouse the highest degree of creativity,” writes Scola, “its absurd and farcical nature meets the ‘minimal degree of creativity’ required to qualify as original.”

Scola’s decision allowed Morford’s case to proceed without comment on its merits at trial. If Morford cannot establish Cattelan had access to “Banana & Orange” in court, he will have to illustrate that the works are “strikingly similar,” according to court documents. Cattelan has argued that the earlier piece is “‘not sufficiently original’ to warrant protection.”