Louis Vuitton Sues Hyundai Over A Louis Vuitton Basketball

from the do-morons-in-a-hurry-play-basketball? dept

Yesterday, I saw that Marty Schwimmer had posted a link to a Hyundai commercial asking if anyone saw the “lawsuit” in the commercial:

It took me a second viewing before I spotted it. The commercial itself plays on the idea of “what if everyone could experience luxury items” showing various examples of “luxury” items being used in more everyday settings: yachts in driveways, cops eating caviar and… some guys shooting hoops with a “luxury” basketball using the typical Louis Vuitton markings that you see on LV purses/handbags/etc.

Louis Vuitton is notoriously (and ridiculously) aggressive when it comes to trademark infringement. A couple years back we wrote about LVMH (parent company of Louis Vuitton) suing a Darfur fundraiser for creating a t-shirt of a Darfur victim “pimped out” to look like Paris Hilton, including a designer handbag with symbols made to look like the LV symbols.

So, yes, that’s exactly what this lawsuit is about. DSchneider points us to the Consumerist’s article laying out the details and I’ve embedded the lawsuit filing below:

Frankly, this lawsuit is ridiculous. LVMH is claiming that people might be confused? In what world? Seriously. In what world is anyone going to view the Hyundai commercial and think that it implies any kind of LVMH endorsement of Hyundai. It’s a joke — and any moron in a hurry knows that the LV basketball isn’t a sign that LVMH is working with or endorsing Hyundai.

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Companies: hyundai, lvmh

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Comments on “Louis Vuitton Sues Hyundai Over A Louis Vuitton Basketball”

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49 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

The puntacular punny punster:

“Louis Vuitton is notoriously (and ridiculously) aggressive when it comes to trademark infringement.”

True. One might say they’ve put a full court press on infringement….

“A couple years back we wrote about LVMH (parent company of Louis Vuitton) suing a Darfur fundraiser for creating a t-shirt of a Darfur victim “pimped out” to look like Paris Hilton, including a designer handbag with symbols made to look like the LV symbols.”

Yeah, they really dropped the ball on that one….

“So, yes, that’s exactly what this lawsuit is about. DSchneider points us to the Consumerist’s article laying out the details and I’ve embedded the lawsuit filing below:”

Sounds like their pursuing Hyundai up and down the court (DOUBLE PUN POINTS!)

“Frankly, this lawsuit is ridiculous. LVMH is claiming that people might be confused?”

I agree. The defense has a slam dunk case….

Money Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Prolly?

It’s funny you say that because I often pronounce the word like that, but I actually started using it in texts and emails with one of my friends years ago and I thought we came up with it ourselves. I haven’t used it in a couple years and I honestly don’t remember seeing it in writing anywhere else.

On a side note, AWDaholic, I’m interested in the site you referenced. I actually picked up a used A4 last year for well below the KBB value and while I haven’t really done much looking for sites, I only knew about Audizine. I’ll have to check out. I don’t really live on the forums like I used to when I had my older cars.

Bob Bunderfeld (profile) says:

Hate Me Today

I know I’m going to get slammed from every direction for saying this, but, maybe LVMH has a point.

First, let me say, that you didn’t see any other “Branded” products in this commercial, only LVMH. Second, it is customary to get permission from the Brand Holder whenever you use their Branded Items in any type of recorded materials. Third, as has been stated over and again here, the law itself could be the causation for these lawsuits.

So, why didn’t Hyundai include any other Branded Items in their commercial? Why not show people eating a Branded Chocolate like Ghiaradali (SP) or the like? Is it because when you do so, you are supposed to get people’s approval? Why didn’t Hyundai ask LVMH for approval? Seriously, are there not other High-Brands out there that LVMH couldn’t have received approval from and used, that they just chose LVMH and hoped it all worked out ok?

As people have said again and again here, the Law itself requires the Holders to aggressively pursue infringements in court to protect their Copyrights. LVMH is doing this, perhaps because they don’t want anyone thinking it’s “ok” to use their Branded Property or Brands, in any other works.

Do I think sometimes Copyright holders go well above what they should to protect their Copyrights? No doubt, but the flip side says there are reasons they do this, and perhaps if they would change the Laws, these company’s wouldn’t work so hard at keeping their Brands?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hate Me Today

Because it was not ‘branded’ it was a basketball with gold colored shapes that resemble LVMH branding. They did not actually use the stylized LV. They used gold colored bulls-eye looking shapes and x’s. Does it look similar to a LV ‘branded item? yeah I guess it might but to imply that Hyundai should have asked/paid LVMH for the privilege of showing a basketball for 1 second during a car commercial because it looks similar to the design they use on a handbagg is asinine.
Side by side look at the ‘confusing ‘ basketball
http://consumerist.com/lvlawsuit.jpg

Cohen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hate Me Today

Anoynmous Coward:

You’ve got your points wrong.

The Hyundai commercial did attempt to brand the basketball so that it resembled the LV trademarked design.

The gold-colored shapes are on a brown, leather-type surface. This is the same as the well-known image of LV bags.

They did use the stylized LV. It is directly above the base of the thumb next to the seam of the basketball.

The gold-colored bullseye-looking shapes and crosses are almost identical to the circles and crosses used in the trademarked LV bags.

And despite what you may think is asinine, the court is actually the final judge.

But suppose a commercial for a LV handbag was to show a toy car with a Hyundai logo on it driving into an LV bag.

Let’s say the commercial made the statement that everyone wants to live in an LV world.

I guarantee you that Hyundai would have sued to keep LV from using the Hyundai logo without permission.

And one of the points would have been that people might be confused that Hyundai was making toy cars.

I’m getting tired of TechDirt’s attempts to confuse its readers (and obviously Anonymous Coward, you are very confused) as to the rights companies have to keep others from using and abusing their logos and trademarks.

Shawn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hate Me Today

Sorry I do not see a distinguishable LV . The court is not the final judge on what is asinine? Not in this country the courts pass countless asinine decisionshe courts especially in the IP arena. If your madeup Hyundai into a LV bag scenario played out it would be just as asinine for Hyundai to sue LV.

Money Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Check your eyes

Yes and no. The pattern is very similar and there is a logo that’s almost identical to the intertwined “LV,” but it’s actually an “LZ.” That sure seems like a parody to me.

Before you tell someone to check their eyes, I think you should make it clear that it’s not visible in the picture the other AC linked to, but it is clear when you pause the video in the right spot and you’re watching it in higher quality.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Hate Me Today

Err… the comercial is about posh things in unposh situations. The point is to show that the basketball is posh. The LV brand is synonomous with posh (put an LV brand on a normal peice of junk and it is suddenly posh). Caviar, diamonds, etc are already synonomous with posh on their own. There would be no joke in spoofing a brand on them.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Hate Me Today

Second, it is customary to get permission from the Brand Holder whenever you use their Branded Items in any type of recorded materials.

While it may be customary, it’s not legally required. The only reason that it became customary was to avoid frivilous lawsuits from overly agressive trademark holders like LV.

Third, as has been stated over and again here, the law itself could be the causation for these lawsuits.

The thing is the law doesn’t actually require that companies be this aggresive in protecting their trademark. The problem is that the company’s actions is not based on defending the trademark in terms of its actual purpose i.e. consumer protection. Their actions stem from their belief that a trademark is an actual form of property i.e. “intellectual property”. In other words, if they understood that the real purpose of trademark was to protect the consumer, all they’d have to do is apply the moron-in-a-hurry test to realize that they didn’t need to sue. But because they view trademark as property, they feel like they had to sue (even though they don’t).

Comboman (profile) says:

Re: Hate Me Today

As people have said again and again here, the Law itself requires the Holders to aggressively pursue infringements in court to protect their Copyrights.

You may have a point if you’re talking about Trademarks rather than Copyrights. Trademark holders are required to protect their marks from any use that would genericize it (for example, using the term “Band-Aid” to refer to any brand of bandage other than Johnson & Johnson’s), otherwise they risk losing the exclusive right to that mark.

Copyright holders are under no such requirement. They may selectively sue some infringing uses and ignore or even encourage others (i.e. fan-fiction) without any risk of losing their copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

While the basketball does not have the actual LV markings it is obvious that the markings used were meant to approximate the LV brand.

Does it infringe. I don’t think so but I’m not an expert on trademark law. I will say that I would think that the legal dept. at Hyundai should have spotted that when they reviewed the commercial and at least discussed the ramifications. Maybe they think they are in the right or the cost involved with defending the suit will be less than the profit from the exposure.

Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Even if the markings are the same on the ball it is only 2/5 of LV’s pattern. I think that Hyundai should try and claim that it was a horatian satirical parody (criticize some vice in society (oftentimes identified as foolish rather than evil) through gentle, mild, and light-hearted humor).

Is it not funny that a luxury textile company is suing a company who is trying to bring luxury to those who can’t normally afford luxury items? All over a product that LV does not make?

The commercial would have been more effective if they would have used a golden basketball rim and a normal ball. Unless they were wanting to get free advertising by this lawsuit.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: How about asking a trademark lawyer for a comment

Instead of just mouthing off and stating that the lawsuit is ridiculous, how about finding a trademark lawyer and asking her/him what the actual law is about.

I did. He told me it was ridiculous, and a sign of (hang on, lemme find the quote) “the insanity that trademark law has become.”

Either way my comment on the ridiculousness of it was not from a legal perspective, but from a *common sense* perspective. The lawsuit makes no common sense.

GregSJ (profile) says:

Dilution not confusion

The real meat of LV’s claim is not in Trademark confusion but rather the dilution of the LV mark to stand for generic luxury rather than their line of goods.
(Dilution is the diminishing of a famous mark’s distinctiveness. It is actionable regardless of confusion or competition – see 15 USC 1125)

The problem, from the view of most Techdirt readers, is that dilution treats Trademarks as though they are the intellectual property of the owners rather than as the means of minimizing customer confusion. Thus the problem with LV’s lawsuit is more of a general disagreement behind the purpose of trademark law than the lawsuit itself.

That being said I doubt there was any actual dilution here but thanks to the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 all LV needs to prove is that the basketball was likely to cause dilution.

the trademark troll (profile) says:

What if is the problem....

When I was a corporate trademark attorney and a situation like this arose I would ask myself: which side would I rather be on ours or theirs? Here I would rather fight for LV than for Hyundai. But the fight does not center on the basketball it centers on the theme of the advertisment.

Why in the world does anyone pay ridiculous amounts of money for a purse of quetionable quality? So that one can tell the world I CAN AFFORD THIS AND YOU CAN’T. If suddenly my brand gets associated with afforability I am dead. Yes dead.

The theme of affordable luxuary is a direct attack on the very soul of LV and its reason to exist. And my guess is that they would be able to prevail. Dilution? The doctrine has a miserable succes rate since it was formally incorporate into US law. But trademark law is often decided by courts on a subjective/ equitable basis. Even before dilution courts were able to stretch and twist trademark doctrine to fit the circumstances never meant for trademark infrigement

the trademark troll (profile) says:

What if is the problem....

When I was a corporate trademark attorney and a situation like this arose I would ask myself: which side would I rather be on ours or theirs? Here I would rather fight for LV than for Hyundai. But the fight does not center on the basketball it centers on the theme of the advertisment.

Why in the world does anyone pay ridiculous amounts of money for a purse of questionable quality? So that one can tell the world I CAN AFFORD THIS AND YOU CAN’T. If suddenly my brand gets associated with afforability I am dead. Yes dead.

The theme of affordable luxuary is a direct attack on the very soul of LV and its reason to exist. And my guess is that they would be able to prevail. Dilution? The doctrine has a miserable succes rate since it was formally incorporated into US law. But trademark law is often decided by courts on a subjective/ equitable basis. Even before dilution courts were able to stretch and twist trademark doctrine to fit circumstances never meant for trademark infrigement

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