Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s premier designer brands, is suing Warner Bros for the use of fake Louis Vuitton luggage in the comedic film “The Hangover Part II.”
Vuitton claims that despite their instructions not to use fake goods in the airport scene in the movie, the studio disregarded the request by filming one of the main characters carrying replica luggage marked “LVM” and proclaiming “Careful, that is a Louis Vuitton.” In their complaint, Louis Vuitton alleges that Warner Bros violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act by falsely designating the origin of the goods and thereby leading to consumer confusion. The luxury brand seeks an order from the court mandating the destruction of all copies of “The Hangover Part II” and related promotional materials, as well as profits from the film plus damages.
Louis Vuitton, undoubtedly aggressive in their brand protection strategies, names Diophy, a Chinese American company, as the manufacturer of the counterfeits. The use of knock-off goods undermines the global fight against counterfeits.
No stranger to legal action, Warner Bros recently settled a copyright case for the unauthorized use of Mike Tyson’s tattoo design. In the instant matter, the complaint also alleges unfair competition and trademark dilution. The studio may invoke the affirmative defense of fair use. A parody can use just enough elements of the original to conjure up the original, while at the same time be different enough that it does not lead to consumer confusion. Where a pet product manufacturer, Haute Diggity Dog parodied famous luxury products, the court concluded that the dog toys could not be mistaken for the luxury brand nor did the toys dilute the brand image.
Who will prevail?