Ridiculous: Court Says Mock Basketball Which Appears In Hyundia Commercial For 1 Second 'Dilutes' LV Trademark

from the are-they-insane? dept

A little over two years ago, we wrote about what we considered to be an absolutely insane lawsuit from Louis Vuitton, arguing that a mock basketball, which appeared in a Hyundai commercial for one second violated LV's trademark. You can see the commercial below:

If you missed it (entirely possible), at the 3 second mark, this image flashes briefly:


The point of the commercial is to get people to imagine what life would be like if "luxury" items were everyday items, and thus the mock basketball with symbols designed to suggest a luxury bag, like a Louis Vuitton bag. As we (and many, many trademark experts) suggested when the lawsuit was filed, the claims here are simply crazy. There is simply no harm whatsoever done to Louis Vuitton by this ad. Most people wouldn't even notice the markings and if they did, what possible "harm" would it do? The answer is none. There is no consumer confusion whatsoever. There are no LV basketballs that won't be sold because of this (in fact, the judge in this case notes that, after seeing this commercial, some people wanted one -- which would suggest a market opportunity, rather than litigation).

Of course, Louis Vuitton's complaint didn't rest on the bedrock of trademark law -- the likelihood of confusion -- but a more modern bastardization of trademark law called "dilution." The concept of dilution in trademark law is an affront to the purpose of trademark law, which is supposed to be about protecting consumers from confusion. That is, it's supposed to be about preventing someone from buying Bob's Cola, thinking that it's really Coca-Cola. But there's no such risk here. Dilution, however, flips the very concept of trademark law on its head and pretends (falsely) that trademark law is about protecting a company's trademarks from anyone doing anything at all with it that the company doesn't like.

Unfortunately, the courts don't always get things right -- which is why we get such ridiculous lawsuits in the first place -- and here, amazingly, the district court has sided with Louis Vuitton in its dilution argument, granting summary judgment on Hyundia's liability for dilution, while it rejected Hyundai's movement for summary judgment rejecting all of Louis Vuitton's claims. This is, in many ways, horrifying.

Eric Goldman's summary, linked above, highlights the many problems with the ruling -- while cautioning that the details suggest this type of ruling is limited. Still, as he notes:
And then we have an opinion like this--where the court finds trademark dilution without finding infringement (not resolved yet) and in a situation where EVERYONE can immediately tell there was zero harm to the brand owner. Rulings like this make trademark academics shudder in fear that trademark dilution will swallow up all of trademark law and confer rights-in-gross to trademark owners. While I don't share those fears for reasons I'll explain in a bit, unquestionably this is a bad ruling.
Goldman goes on to highlight some of the more specific problems with the ruling, but the key point is simply that there is no harm here. None. Absolutely none. Perhaps less than none, given the reports of interest in LV basketballs. When the law doesn't care about that, then the law is, unquestionably, broken. A ruling like this automatically lessens respect for trademark law, because it makes no sense at all. It makes a mockery of the judicial system by suggesting that lawsuits like this have any merit whatsoever.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    RD, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 10:40am

    Well, there goes Fair Use

    So you can kiss Fair Use, commentary and criticism, and anything even remotely related goodbye. A further stripping of the rights of the public to enrich the rich and keep the powerful in power.

     

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

  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 10:47am

    Speaking of stupid lawsuits, remember that lawsuit filed by the actress who sued IMDB/Amazon for daring to publish her real age? The judge in the case is allowing it to proceed.

    http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/04/03/45292.htm

    Apparently it's against the law to post public data on the internet.

     

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

  3.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Pretty soon you wont be able to show anything. Shows will be actors and blur marks around them.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 10:49am

    what makes things worse is it shows just what sort of morons can be given jobs as judges, issuing rulings over us lesser mortals, when they appear to have no little knowledge of the law and even less common sense!

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:10am

    The lawsuit is crazy, but keep an eye out for those LV basketballs...someone's gonna do it. That LV pattern is ugly as shit anyway.

     

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

  6.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    I have to have one!

    I searched all over LouisVuitton.com and cannot find this basketball for sale! Please help!!! Maybe I'll buy a counterfeit from the local Hyundai dealership. =]

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Re:

    Until this happens:

    "Hey! That actor kinda looks like the guy in our logo!"

    *LAWSUIT*

     

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

  8.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:27am

    So, showing an ad implying exclusiveness and luxury of LV products is grounds for a lawsuit....oooooookay, time for their lawyers to get off retainers and actually justify their actions. Maybe, I don't know, run these ideas past their bosses.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Mike42 (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    It wasn't public data, it was private data.
    The only way they could have gotten this information was to query private, supposedly confidential records (credit cards, etc.)

    THAT is what the lawsuit is about, NOT public information.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Faith Fulreeder, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:42am

    One Question:

    Who the fuck is "louis mutton" and why should anyone give a squirrel's left nut about him or them?

     

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

  11.  
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    Ninja (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:44am

    LV is famous for being total jerks (run by lawyers, maybe?) and from personal experience the ones that buy original LV stuff (purses and the likes) are total jerks too. But I digress.

    The scary part is that Trademark/Copyright/Patent is becoming so broken and evil that I wouldn't be surprised if this goes ahead...

     

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

  12.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:44am

    Where's the "L" and "V"?

    The images I have seen for the "Louis Vuitton pattern" all have a "L" and a "V" superimposed on each other in the pattern. The basketball has a pattern of shapes and none (as far as I can tell) of them look like a "L" or a "V".

    So did this court really say that any repeating pattern of shapes is a dilution of the LV trademark?

    I guess I need to disable the "step and repeat" functions in all my graphics programs now. And what about all those backdrops used for press conferences? Those have repeating patterns too.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:51am

    Re: Where's the "L" and "V"?

    I call it tosspattern.

    You know, like you get from throwing things down.

    or otherwise derived

    from the people who own or use it.

     

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

  14.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re:

    God, at the very least read the link before commenting:
    "IMDB and Amazon failed to convince the court that it had permission to mine public records for Hoang's birth date under the website's subscriber agreement or privacy policy."
    Seriously, what makes people comment on stuff they're completely ignorant about?!

     

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

  15. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 12:22pm

    Of course, Louis Vuitton's complaint didn't rest on the bedrock of trademark law -- the likelihood of confusion -- but a more modern bastardization of trademark law called "dilution." The concept of dilution in trademark law is an affront to the purpose of trademark law, which is supposed to be about protecting consumers from confusion. That is, it's supposed to be about preventing someone from buying Bob's Cola, thinking that it's really Coca-Cola. But there's no such risk here. Dilution, however, flips the very concept of trademark law on its head and pretends (falsely) that trademark law is about protecting a company's trademarks from anyone doing anything at all with it that the company doesn't like.

    ROFLMAO! I love when you whine about trademark law. "The law is supposed to be about something other than what the law is actually about." AWESOME logic! And, silly Mike, you do know that trademark law has ALWAYS (for centuries) been about more than "protecting consumers from confusion," right? The fact that you deny this shows what a loon you are.

     

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

  16.  
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    Vincent Clement (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    They are a French company. Enough said.

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 12:29pm

    Re:

    was it here i saw this lawyer joke? :
    What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 75?
    Your Honor.
    hee hee hee
    ho ho ho
    ha ha ha
    ak ak ak
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 12:29pm

    Re:

    Almost everything is against the law, on the internet.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    It's funny because 'the law should be different or interpreted differently' is perfectly logical but 'the law should be what it is because that's what the law is' is an obvious logical fallacy. You're also completely wrong about the origin of trademark, it was originally about indicating sources of products to consumers and nothing else, but that's not a huge surprise.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Where's the "L" and "V"?

    I see X's and O's. The O's have a dot in the middle. Target might have a case too!

     

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

  21.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Didn't you know? Facts are irrelevant when arguing.

     

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

  22.  
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    Thomas (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 1:03pm

    Or maybe..

    LV slipped the judge some expensive leather? Or a fat envelope?

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Or maybe..

    Some expensive leather? If LV is going to use the LV trademark just for bribing mere district court judge I think that's ground for a trademark dilution suit.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Colin, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Wait. Some people wanted LV basketballs but couldn't get them, so NOT having branded items is somehow diluting the brand? I clearly don't know what "dilute" means...

     

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

  25.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 4th, 2012 @ 2:19pm

    What's bizarre is that this commercial holds up LV as the epitome of luxury and yet LV is complaining. Would someone please use national television to make my company's logo as synonymous with quality engineering? Please, anyone! Go right ahead! I won't sue you, I promise!

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 4:26pm

    Obviously Louis Vuitton do not want to be associated with luxury. Maybe the internet could help them here?

    From now on, if you want to use an example of luxury, explicitly mention that you can't use LV as an example of luxury.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    light manufacturing LTD, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 6:22pm

    Diluting my brand image

    In the background you can see a tall light pole. While its still daylight, you are still quite clearly able to see the clear cover over the lighting aparatus. I manufacture that cover, and have also trademarked the greyish-brown haze that is a carbon dioxide and dust infused 'pollution color'. both of these (one real item and the other an environmental atmospheric coloration are both owned by me.

    Together with God (as he holds the patent on the blue sky) feel our brand has been diluted by this add as well.

     

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

  28.  
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    tsunku, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 11:49pm

    i guess this will truly upset louis vitton even more, i had no clue what their trademark looked like as i would never pay a lot of money for cheap crap.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Lennart Regebro, Apr 5th, 2012 @ 1:41am

    So start making them already! Hip-hoppers who like bling would buy Louis-Vitton basketballs by the truckload!

    No, instead they sue.

    Idiots.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2012 @ 4:24am

    typos

    What is "Hyundia" ?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2012 @ 4:25am

    typos

    What is "Hyundia" ?

     

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

  32.  
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    Niall (profile), Apr 5th, 2012 @ 5:01am

    Re: Re:

    Misusing American laws. Enough said.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Mike, Apr 5th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Activist Judges

    Those activist judges are at it again.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Mike, Apr 5th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Activist Judges

    Those activist judges are at it again.

     

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

  35.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    Louis Vuitton makes some of the most butt-ugly shit you can buy. Why people pay a premium for that is beyond comprehension, but I suppose it could be explained away by the usual More Money Than Brains crowd. Why Hyundai would want to associate with their crap is also questionable. People who buy LV products are generally people with no real taste or discernment, but it does assist muggers in identifying their prey more easily, which is not a bad thing.

     

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

  36.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Apr 6th, 2012 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    Louis Vuitton makes some of the most butt-ugly shit you can buy. Why people pay a premium for that is beyond comprehension, but I suppose it could be explained away by the usual More Money Than Brains crowd. Why Hyundai would want to associate with their crap is also questionable. People who buy LV products are generally people with no real taste or discernment, but it does assist muggers in identifying their prey more easily, which is not a bad thing.

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2012 @ 7:29pm

    Re:

    >And, silly Mike, you do know that trademark law has ALWAYS (for centuries) been about more than "protecting consumers from confusion," right?

    Tell me - are there any consumers who were confused that Louis Vuitton made basketballs, now?

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Walhgm, Sep 14th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re: I have to have one!

    I have the LV basketball. Hard to get one, but now I am selling it. Anyone interested in it. Let me know.
    wlowry1023@me.com

     

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


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