Louis Vuitton sends absurd cease-and-desist letter to Penn Law over student event flyer (and more fun with trademark abuse!)
Louis Vuitton either has a finely honed sense of irony, or none at all.
On February 29th, one Michael Pantalony, Esq., "Director of Civil Enforcement" at Louis Vuitton, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Dean Michael Fitts of the University of Pennsylvania Law School (colloquially known as "Penn Law.") The subject of the letter: a clever twist on a recognizable pattern, used on a flyer for a law student event...
...where intellectual property protection for fashion (note the "TM"s and ©'s worked into the traditional LV pattern) is the very subject on the agenda. On the full flyer, posted here, you'll see that the program's second panel will address the debate over a bill that would grant additional intellectual property protection to certain "unique" fashion designs.
The controversy surrounding this "Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act" (the "IDPPPA") is warranted: it's a big deal to create a new category of IP protection, especially in an industry that lives and dies on trends and reinvention.
Louis Vuitton's recent C&D letter might help some people currently on the fence about the IDPPPA make up their minds. After reading the fashion heavyweight's absurd threat, crafted using only existing laws, one naturally wonders if it's wise to add another tool to the arsenal of IP bullies...
For more sometimes-amusing, sometimes-alarming episodes of trademark abuse, see:
- Louis Vuitton sues Dutch painter Nadia Plesner over her representation of a Louis Vuitton handbag in the painting "Darfurnica," which Plesner presumably intended as a commentary on conspicuous consumption at a time when children were starving in Darfur. Fortunately, the painter ultimately prevailed. (See also this recent, less egregious LV trademark episode, and other LV shenanigans, compiled by the blog techdirt.)
- Infamous knockoff artist Forever 21 makes preposterous, hollow threats to WTForever21.com blogger -- and fervent Forever 21 critic -- Rachel Kane (whom I represented in the matter.) The blog remains active today.
- Sandawana Holdings, Ltd., a company that swooped in to pick up venerable jewelry designer Henry Dunay's trademark, a stylized version of his name, when the Great Recession forced him to file for personal and corporate bankruptcy, insisted to a federal district court that its purported trademark rights precluded Mr. Dunay from using his own name on the Internet in any way -- even as an e-mail address or for a private facebook profile. Initially, the judge somehow decided Sandawana was right. My firm got involved in the case in December 2011 and persuaded the judge to partially revise his erroneous ruling. But the district court did not go far enough in correcting its errors, so we appealed to the Second Circuit. (Briefs have not been filed yet, only our initial appellate documents; LAW OF FASHION ® will keep you posted as the appeal progresses.)
Trademark law is very powerful, and very dangerous in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, it seems the right hands are in short supply these days. Fortunately, Penn is standing up to Louis Vuitton's threats:
LAW OF FASHION will, of course, let you know how s#*t goes down...
[This post is for entertainment, news dissemination, and informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship among any individuals or entities. Any views expressed in this post or at the linked web pages are those of the writer on a particular date, and should not necessarily be attributed to this writer, his law firm, or its clients. LAW OF FASHION does not and cannot warrant the thoroughness or accuracy of the content at the linked web pages.]