New York—Louis Vuitton has had some recent successes fighting against trademark infringement, but the LVMH-owned company failed to make its case in a lawsuit over the 2011 box office hit “The Hangover Part II.”
A U.S. District Court judge Friday rejected Louis Vuitton’s claim that Warner Bros infringed on its trademark in the film.
Last year, the French luxurygoods brand sued Warner Bros., alleging that a 25-second scene in the film featured a Louis Vuitton knockoff by Diophy that infringed on its trademarks and would create consumer confusion.
Citing the Lanham Act, Louis Vuitton asked the court to prevent Warner Bros from using its trademarks and wanted all copies of the film using the trademarks surrendered, not to mention triple damages.
But Judge Andrew Carter Jr. of the U.S. District Court, Southern Division, ruled, “Louis Vuitton’s allegations of confusion are not plausible let alone ‘particularly compelling.’”
The judge, in fact, offered his own critique of the scene in question, where the character played by actor Zack Galifianakis, who carries a bag marked “LVM”, warns character who pushes him: “Be careful, this is, that’s a Lewis Vuitton.”
Unlikely That Movie Viewers Would Even Notice a Knock-Off
“Alan’s terse remark to Teddy to ‘be careful’ because his bag ‘is a Lewis Vuitton’ comes across as snobbish only because the public signifies Louis Vuitton — to which the Diophy bag looks confusingly similar — with luxury and a high society lifestyle,” Judge Carter said. “His remark also comes across as funny because he mispronounces the French ‘Louis’ like the English ‘Lewis,’ and ironic because he cannot correctly pronounce the brand name of one of his expensive possessions, adding to the image of Alan as a socially inept and comically misinformed character. This scene also introduces the comedic tension between Alan and Teddy that appears throughout the film.”
Hence, although the Diophy knock off had some relevance in the film, it wasn’t misleading as to the source and didn’t appear to cause confusion with a real Louis Vuitton.
“Specifically, Louis Vuitton does not allege that Warner Bros. used the Diophy bag in order to mislead consumers into believing that Louis Vuitton produced or endorsed the film,” Carter wrote in his judgment.
Moreover, when First Amendment freedom of speech issues are involved, the Lanham Act is narrowly construed by courts in favor of the public interest of free expression, Carter said.
Since the bag only appears less 30 seconds on the screen, ”it is unlikely that an appreciable number of people watching the film would even notice that the bag is a knock-off, that any likelihood of confusion is minimal and thus the interests in protecting free expression outweigh any harm,” the judge added.