European Court: Freedom Of Expression About Darfur More Important Than Louis Vuitton's Trademark

from the common-sense! dept

Back in March, we wrote about Louis Vuitton's attempt to sue artist Nadia Plesner for her painting that included what was supposed to be a child from Darfur holding a designer purse:
This was the second time LV dealt with this issue. A few years earlier, it had sued Plesner over the same character holding the same purse (which, we should note, does not copy LV's logo directly) which was on t-shirts that Plesner was selling to help raise money for the victims in Darfur. We found the entire thing to be beyond distasteful by LV. This clearly was not trademark infringement. It was just LV being a bully. Plesner had lost that original lawsuit, mainly because she just didn't fight it. The new lawsuit was about the painting above.

The good news, via Ray Dowd is that Plesner has prevailed as the court in the Hague found the painting not to infringe on Louis Vuitton's trademark:
the importance of Plesner (freedom of expression through her work) outweighs the importance of Vuitton (protection of property). Using Plesner of the design is considered functional by the court and proportionate.
Not only that, but the court also ordered Louis Vuitton to pay Plesner's legal fees. Excellent news all around. Hopefully it'll make LV and its lawyers think twice before bullying artists in the future.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    PMacDiggity (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 9:42am

    I'm amazed by this, it's excellent, if surprising, news. I would be very interested to see how a similar case would turn out in the US today.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 9:57am

    "common-sense! dept" Needs a new name. Whats common sense for one person can be insanity to another, hence the fact that it never actually gets used in by large groups of people.

     

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  3.  
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    That Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 10:02am

    You left out the secret hearing they held getting her fined 5,000 euros a day.

    Because suing someone working for charity really shows where your priorities lie.

     

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  4.  
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    James T, May 9th, 2011 @ 10:40am

    About 6 years ago, Britney Spears showed an imitation Louis Vuitton dashboard in one of her music videos. Louis Vuitton were not happy about this and successfully sued for 80 thousand euros and even getting the video banned. A re-edited version had to be made.

    http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2007/11/18/afx4351957.html
    http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/sho wbiz/news/a80259/spears-music-video-banned-in-europe.html

     

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  5.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 10:57am

    Meanwhile, United Colours of Benetton would have bought the painting...

     

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  6.  
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    Danny, May 9th, 2011 @ 11:16am

    Because heaven forbid....

    LV see this as a chance for some publicity on his part. I wonder how people would have reacted if he had instead offered to work with Plesner's charities. More than likely most people would rather read about LV making an official bag similar to the one in the painting and giving all money from sales of it to that charity than to see childish bullying.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    You must understand LV's position on this. Essentially there are two problems with Plesner's painting:-

    The first, the child holding the LV like bag is clearly poor and LV does not associate with poor people. The second problem is the child is also black, and not black like Obama.

    Either one of these would be sufficient for them to sue, both was just asking for trouble.

     

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  8.  
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    Rekrul, May 9th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Not only that, but the court also ordered Louis Vuitton to pay Plesner's legal fees. Excellent news all around. Hopefully it'll make LV and its lawyers think twice before bullying artists in the future.

    How long until the inevitable appeal by LV?

     

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  9.  
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    The eejit (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Re:

    If I recall corrctly, this was the appeal.

     

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  10.  
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    Rekrul, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:23pm

    Re: Re:

    If I recall corrctly, this was the appeal.

    No, this was a lawsuit to try and get her to comply with an earlier court ruling that she had to pay $7,500 a day for using an image of their handbag. As far as I know, this is a separate court action and as such, I believe it can be appealed.

     

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  11.  
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    hmm (profile), May 15th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    does anyone think

    That these people/companies that basically act directly AGAINST the interests of humanity as a whole don't really deserve to exist at all?

    What I would LOVE to see is LV collapsing into bankruptcy, celebrities stopping purchasing LV products (and being extremely vocal about WHY), which would make some of the other vicious parasites of this world perhaps think twice....

     

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  12.  
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    Luna, May 15th, 2011 @ 1:40pm

    How about people have the creativity to create a designer bag without imitating labels, or products already on the market? There was no reason to use LV or their products in any way. Judging by the questionable quality of this painting, I'd say the artist isn't all that original.
    A poor kid holding a designer bag? Wow, what a bold statement. I've never seen a message like that before! Oh wait, I have, and in better quality.

    The concept the artist was trying to convey was good, but not exactly stand out, creative, or unique. Doing things for charity is great, but doing it like this is just insulting to the charity.

    After one quarrel with a certain brand, why do something similar again? That's just asking to pick a fight. The artist could have made something completely unrelated to LV, but chose to anyway. That's pathetic, and childish.

    The concept of the art also makes the label look bad, of course LV is upset. I'd be mad if the things I designed were being mocked, and used without permission.

    Fashion design is art too. The artist has a right to that image, and how its used. I find the artist to be at fault here, not LV. Since when did expression become more important than the rights over our creations?

    Bullying the artist? The artist purposely antagonized a designer, and used their image without permission. Who's bullying who?

    Of course everyone sides with the artist, not the "big bad fashion designer" because God forbid we see things objectively. Everyone here sees it as a big fashion label picking on a little artist. No, its one artist stealing a concept from another. Forget the names, forget the fame, the money, the concept of the art, forget all that.

    Its not just Plesner vs Vuitton. Its one artist vs another. Plesner should use original concepts, and art for charity. Not just copy paste existing art.

     

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  13.  
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    CounterTroll, May 15th, 2011 @ 2:53pm

    Re:

    "How about people have the creativity to create a designer bag without imitating labels, or products already on the market? There was no reason to use LV or their products in any way. Judging by the questionable quality of this painting, I'd say the artist isn't all that original.
    A poor kid holding a designer bag? Wow, what a bold statement. I've never seen a message like that before! Oh wait, I have, and in better quality."

    Perhaps you should be an art critic. Your opinions clearly hold plenty of merit.


    "The concept the artist was trying to convey was good, but not exactly stand out, creative, or unique. Doing things for charity is great, but doing it like this is just insulting to the charity."

    I'm sure that's exactly how they feel about such selflessness. How dare she produce mediocre work in an effort to help others?!"


    "After one quarrel with a certain brand, why do something similar again? That's just asking to pick a fight. The artist could have made something completely unrelated to LV, but chose to anyway. That's pathetic, and childish."

    An artist created an expressive work and had the pants sued off her. Who really picked this fight?


    "The concept of the art also makes the label look bad, of course LV is upset. I'd be mad if the things I designed were being mocked, and used without permission."

    I see nothing mocking about the painting. I DO see a wealthy company's product juxtaposed against poverty. If you ask me, that's pretty effective art. Hardly a case of infringement, by any definition of the word.


    "Fashion design is art too. The artist has a right to that image, and how its used."

    The artist has a right to the product. Last time I checked, Plesner wasn't trying to sell knockoff handbags. In fact, she wasn't trying to sell anything at all.


    "I find the artist to be at fault here, not LV."

    I find your reasoning to be flawed at best, and your bias blatant. Which department of LV do you work for?


    "Since when did expression become more important than the rights over our creations?"

    The instant LV sued an artist for creating art.


    "Bullying the artist? The artist purposely antagonized a designer, and used their image without permission. Who's bullying who?

    I repeat: An artist created an expressive work and had the pants sued off her. Who really picked this fight?


    "Of course everyone sides with the artist, not the "big bad fashion designer" because God forbid we see things objectively. Everyone here sees it as a big fashion label picking on a little artist. No, its one artist stealing a concept from another. Forget the names, forget the fame, the money, the concept of the art, forget all that.
    Its not just Plesner vs Vuitton. Its one artist vs another. Plesner should use original concepts, and art for charity. Not just copy paste existing art."

    You want to talk about objective? How can LV call any of it's products "art" if they attempt to stifle it?

    It would be illegal for Plesner to sell imitations of the bag. It is not illegal for her to say "LV handbags are complete crap." It is not illegal to say "I think LV should be more proactive in areas of need." Fair use says it is certainly not illegal to create a likeness of an LV product to express that sentiment.

    And since you appear to have very strong ties with LV, please pass this message on. It's no wonder corporations are so hated.

     

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  14.  
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    Luna-tic, May 15th, 2011 @ 6:33pm

    Re: Fair Use

    Read about fair use. Read about the right to criticise and even ridicule the art of others.

    For this is what an artist must endure to have their work (and royalties) protected by the courts and the police. Fair. Use. It's the quid pro quo that every artist has to suffer, and it includes somebody highlighting the fact that we live in a strange world when children can die of poverty and hunger whilst - but a few miles away - people spend thousands of dollars on a handbag.

    Whether the art was good or not isn't the point. The point is that there is a balance of rights here. The right of LV to produce and promote a work and - in return for having that work protected by EUR law - the right of fair use is given to all others.

     

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  15.  
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    wvhillbilly (profile), May 16th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

    Trolls

    Some people are just trolls. They'll sue anybody over anything. We have patent trolls who buy up all sorts of questionable patents for the sole purpose of using them for litigation. We have copyright trolls who "acquire" copyrights on news stories found on the Internet, sue the owner of the web site and make all kinds of outrageous demands on them, and we even have trademark trolls. Monster Cable was one of the worst, suing anyone who used the word "Monster" in any kind of a commercial context, even sued Disney over its "Monsters Inc." movie. And now we have Disney having acquired exclusive trademark rights to the phrase, "Seal Team 6",the name given to the navy special forces team responsible for the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. I keep wondering, how long before Disney sues the navy for infringing its "trademark"?

    I suppose some people see suing others as just a means of bringing in more money, with the excuse of protecting "rights" that may not even be theirs.

    I do know one thing, suing potential customers is no way to build your business.

     

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  16.  
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    Mr Right, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 9:39am

    LV vs Artist helping victims.

    Screw LV. I don't know who they are and I didn't see that picture and relate it to any company, who cares? The artist should sue LV for defamation of character. LV should make a gigantic donation to the artist's charity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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