Toymaker Sues Louis Vuitton over the Right to Create Parody Purses

January 24, 2019

For luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, maintaining an image of elegance and sophistication is essential for success. After all, high-end consumers might not be willing to hand over huge amounts of cash to a company that has fallen out of fashion. In order to remain in control of its image, Louis Vuitton has often been quick to file lawsuits against knockoff businesses that place its signature logo onto poorly made items. Along with targeting bootleggers, however, the company also has a history of going after firms that create parodies of Louis Vuitton products.

In 2014, for instance, the company sued a Los Angeles handbag firm that reprinted designs from famous fashion houses onto plain canvas tote bags. Louis Vuitton has also sought legal action against a company called Haute Diggity Dog for its line of “Chewy Vuitton” dog toys shaped like luxury high heels and perfume bottles. Louis Vuitton lost both cases, though, with one judge dryly noting that “the furry little ‘Chewy Vuiton’ imitation, as something to be chewed by a dog, pokes fun at the elegance and expensiveness of a Louis Vuitton handbag, which must not be chewed by a dog.”

But despite this less than stellar record of success, the French fashion house continues to threaten novelty companies with lawsuits. The latest example is a toymaker called MGA Entertainment that makes a slime-filled purse called the Poopsie Pooey Vuitton (yes, really). When the company received a warning from Louis Vuitton to stop infringing on its copyrights, MGA decided to respond in an unusual way: they sued Louis Vuitton. In a legal complaint that contains the word “poop” 25 times, MGA makes the claim that it has the right to parody the luxurious lifestyle promoted by brands like Louis Vuitton. What’s more, the company argues that no reasonable person could ever mistake a colorful slime bag for an expensive Louis Vuitton purse. “Louis Vuitton handbags are not poop-shaped, are not made out of hardened plastic, and do not depict three-dimensional cartoonish facial features such as elongated eyelashes and pouted lips,” reads the complaint.

Questions:

  1. Why is Louis Vuitton so protective of its image?
  2. Do you think Louis Vuitton should continue to pursue legal action against companies that parody its products? Why or why not?

Source: Taylor Telford, “Toymaker Sues Louis Vuitton for the Right to Keep Making Pooey Purses,” The Washington Post, January 7, 2019.

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