LVMH, the company that owns the Louis Vuitton fashion brand, filed a trademark infringement suit against Time Warner’s Warner Brothers Entertainment division which was just dismissed by a federal judge in New York City. The luxury retailer launched the suit in December of 2011 claiming that a fake bag appeared in a scene from Warner Brothers’ recent hit, “The Hangover: Part II.” Louis Vuitton claims that this knockoff’s appearance amounted to trademark infringement.
The scene involved one of the stars of the movie warning others to be careful of the bag, saying it’s “a Louis Vuitton.” The company now says that this assertion could confuse its costumers as to the source of the bag and the brand’s association with a cheap fake would diminish the company’s trademarks. The bag that appeared in the scene was actually the product of a company Louis Vuitton has sued previously before the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Though the company will permit its products to appear in movies, it will only do so with specific permission and only if the product is authentic. Warner Brothers apparently failed to follow proper procedure and did not clear the use of the branded product with the owner before inserting it into the comedy.
In their complaint, Vuitton asked for the judge to bar all advertising, promotion and distribution of the film. Not content with stopping any additional copies being sold, Vuitton also asked that all copies of the film that contain images of the counterfeit bag be destroyed. Finally, the company asked for a share of Warner Brothers’ profits related to the fake bag appearing in the movie, damages and attorney’s fees.
The presiding judge, Andrew L. Carter, was not sold on Vuitton’s arguments. His ruling was quite clear in saying that there was no chance that a moviegoer would ever mistake the fake bag for a genuine one just because a character in the movie said it was. Judge Carter pointed out that the whole scene was intentionally ridiculous, with the character mispronouncing the name of the company as “Lewis” Vuitton. This comic element of the film made the use of the bag and trade name an example of artistic expression permitted under the First Amendment.
This isn’t the first time this very film has been the target of a trademark infringement lawsuit. Earlier in 2011 the tattoo artist who created Mike Tyson’s distinctive tattoo sued over the use of that design in the film. The case was later settled for an undisclosed sum of money. Who knew a movie as ridiculous as “The Hangover” could spark such litigation?
Source: “Vuitton’s Infringement Suit Over ‘Hangover’ Film Dismissed,” by Victoria Slind-Flor, published at Bloomberg.com.