Let’s sue or smile?

The four-year dispute between Louis Vuitton and My Other Bag has finally been settled.

My Other Bag sells canvas bags with (simplified) images of designer bags from various luxury brands for $30 a piece. Those of Louis Vuitton are well represented in the My Other Bag collection.

The District Court of New York did not go along with Louis Vuitton’s argument that its trademarks and copyrights were being infringed. With the winged statement: “In some cases, it is better to ‘accept the implied compliment in [a] parody’ and to smile or laugh than it is to sue. This… is such a case”, the case was closed. Louis Vuitton’s claims were also dismissed in appeal. In the most recent proceedings, it was only about the costs of the proceedings. There, the French fashion house has successfully argued that it does not have to pay the litigation costs of almost $1 million on the side of My Other Bag – a meagre consolation.

Louis Vuitton is also active in the Netherlands. In 2011, the court in preliminary relief proceedings in The Hague considered the work of art “Dafurnica”. Part of the artwork was a malnourished African boy with a Louis Vuitton look-a-like handbag. Louis Vuitton believed that this violated her design rights.  This case clearly differs from the dispute with My Other Bag. Plesner tried to send a political signal to the western world with this work of art. Louis Vuitton simply did not want to be part of this political message. This was followed by a consideration of freedom of speech against the intellectual property interests of Louis Vuitton. In the end, the judge ruled that artistic freedom outweighs the interests of Louis Vuitton in this case. This is why this case differs from the dispute with My Other Bag.  The main focus in this case was on the commercial exploitation possibilities and the risk of dilution of the Louis Vuitton trademarks.

The question is whether My Other Bag would have won in the Netherlands. Who knows, maybe the Dutch judge sense of humour will be put to the test!

Moïra Truijens and Lisanne Steenbergen

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