An artist named Nadia Plesner recently put together a project to try to raise money for the victims of genocide in Darfur. As part of the campaign, she created a t-shirt with a drawn image of a Darfur victim "pimped" out to look like Paris Hilton -- that is, carrying a designer handbag and a small dressed up dog. The entire profits from the t-shirts are going to help the victims. The handbag drawn in the image is not specifically a Louis Vuitton bag, but the design firm seems to have gone ballistic, claiming all sorts of intellectual property rights it simply does not possess
. First, it sent a (admittedly friendly) cease-and-desist, which Plesner wrote about on the site, while responding and telling the company that she would not take down the t-shirt or the image. In response, LV went from friendly to nasty. It sued, demanding $7,500 for each day she keeps selling the product, $7,500 for each day she displays its original cease-and-desist letter and (my favorite) $7,500 for each day she mentions the name "Louis Vuitton" on her website.
While, there may be some difference due to the specifics of trademark law in Europe, it's hard to see how this is not overreaching. This is an entirely non-commercial venture. All of the profits are given to charity. The design has some differences from the Louis Vuitton bag, and hardly seems likely to specifically damage the Louis Vuitton brand (the lawsuit will take care of that). The t-shirts are clearly not competing with Louis Vuitton and there's little reason to have anyone think that Louis Vuitton somehow "endorsed" this effort. Furthermore, posting the cease-and-desist or even mentioning
the name Louis Vuitton simply should not be infringing activities. I don't know if Europe has the equivalent of the "moron in a hurry"
trademark test, but LV gets the "moron in a hurry" award for the week.