Louis Vuitton Mallatier S.A. v. Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., 2012 WL 2248593 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)
Louis Vuitton’s claim of trademark infringement against Warner Brothers for use of a knockoff bag in one of its movies was dismissed by the Southern District of New York for failure to state a claim. In The Hangover: Part II, one of the main characters refers to the bag he carries as being made by Louis Vuitton (although the character mispronounces the name “Lewis”). The luxury fashion house brought suit against Warner Brothers, alleging trademark infringement. The court found that the use of the knockoff bag was protected by the First Amendment. Applying the two-pronged test for First Amendment protection of “artistic works,” the court asked whether the use of the mark was (1) artistically relevant to the work and (2) not “explicitly misleading.” The court found that, because Warner Brothers’ use did not attempt to exploit the mark’s popularity or goodwill, it was “artistically relevant.” It further ruled that a mark must induce members of the public to believe the artistic work was prepared or authorized by a plaintiff for a use to be considered “explicitly misleading” for First Amendment purposes. The court found that Warner Brothers’ use was artistically relevant and not explicitly misleading and dismissed Louis Vuitton’s complaint accordingly.
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