Louis Vuitton Touts Basketball Trademark Victory In Similar Lawsuit Against Warner Bros.
from the trademark-hangover dept
We recently wrote about the terrible ruling in which a district court said Hyundai had diluted Louis Vuitton's trademarks with a one-second clip of a mock LV basketball in a commercial. Now THR reports that Louis Vuitton has included that ruling as part of a new filing in another ongoing trademark suit against Warner Bros., over a scene in The Hangover Part II that briefly shows (and refers to) a Louis Vuitton bag. Warner Bros. is seeking summary judgement in that case, on the quite sensible grounds that featuring trademarks and brands in a film is protected speech under the First Amendment, but Louis Vuitton is using the Hyundai ruling as a counterweapon:
The French brand says that judge's decision two weeks ago shows why it should be able to go forward with its claims against Warner Bros. for infringing and diluting its trademark by showing, for one brief moment in the movie, Zach Galifianakis telling someone who pushes his bag, “Be careful, that is … that is a Lewis Vuitton.”
"As Judge Castel recently ruled in Louis Vuitton v. Hyundai, Louis Vuitton's 'aggressive' enforcement of its trademark rights and prompt action against those who misuse its trademarks are necessary concomitants of its exclusive rights in the brand," the French company says in a court filing.
This is how a law gets out of hand: each bad ruling diminishes its intent a little further, until it no longer serves its original purpose. This is a big part of what happened to copyright law, and bullies like Louis Vuitton are causing a similar erosion of trademark: a shift from laws that benefit everyone to laws that grant broad powers of ownership and control to rightsholders, infringing on freedom of speech in the process. Of course, Warner Bros. has been through something similar before, when the artist behind Mike Tyson's face tattoo sued over the very same movie—though that was a copyright issue, and settled confidentially. The argument against trademark dilution is likely even stronger than the argument against copyright infringement, but it remains to be seen how Warner Bros. will respond to Louis Vuitton's latest move.
Of course, as always, one can't ignore the irony of Warner Bros.—a big proponent of stronger intellectual property laws—fighting against overly restrictive trademarks, and citing the First Amendment in the process. This hypocrisy is something media companies don't want to acknowledge: as content producers and distributors, they rely on the very freedoms and fair use exceptions that they are constantly seeking to curtail.