As we often point out in this column, we are not attorneys and we do not dispense legal advice. With that in mind, we will explain that parodies are exempt from infringement claims. When Saturday Night Live performs a parody of a person, place or thing – funny or not (and, lately, not) – it is not trade infringement.
Keeping that in mind, we wonder what Louis Vuitton was thinking of when the luxury goods company filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against My Other Bag (MOB), makers and sellers of low-end canvass totes. In a strongly worded decision from the U.S. District Court judge hearing the case, he ruled that MOB’s products – which clearly replicate several Louis Vuitton bags, trademarks and copyrights – are parodies, and thus are not actionable sources of a claim of trademark infringement or trademark dilution.
In a no-nonsense 31-page decision, the judge wrote that “In some cases, it is better to ‘accept the implied compliment in [a] parody’ and to smile or laugh than it is to sue.” He explained that “MOB’s use of Louis Vuitton’s marks in service of what is an obvious attempt at humor is not likely to cause confusion or the blurring of the distinctiveness of Louis Vuitton’s marks; if anything, it is likely only to reinforce and enhance the distinctiveness and notoriety of the famous brand.” The judge denied Louis Vuitton’s motion for summary judgment.
Our input on the whole affair? How many canvass tote bags will MOB have to sell to cover its legal fees?