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The Art and Antique Dealers League of America and the National Art and Antiques Dealers Association of America have teamed up to argue the 2014 state law “criminalises what federal law otherwise permits”.

Together they lodged the lawsuit in a New York court on April 5.

Local and national laws

The dealers contest that the state legislation conflicts with exemptions for antiques stipulated in national laws covering the ivory trade.

Alan Sash of the New York law firm McLaughlin & Stern is acting for the associations.

He said in a statement sent to ATG: “This lawsuit is to preserve and protect the lawful trade of antique ivory (defined as over 100 years old) in New York. To be very clear, we are opposed to current hunting and disapprove of ivory trophies. This lawsuit is about preserving the trade of antique ivory.”

He said the trade of antique ivory is protected by federal law and the lawsuit requests the state of New York to “respect such lawful commerce”.

Currently under the US federal laws, exemptions permit people to “possess, import, export, purchase, sell, trade and transport in interstate commerce ivory works of art that are more than 100 years old and… non-antique articles containing a de minimis amount of ivory (as defined by federal law)”.

However, the state law – impacting America’s largest concentration of dealers and auctioneers – operates under a different criteria that effectively prohibits both interstate and intrastate commerce.