Louis Vuitton has reportedly announced that the company will be ending its 13-year relationship with Takashi Murakami. Industry insiders are saying the move - which has not been confirmed by Louis Vuitton - is significant as either a final farewell to the Marc Jacobs era (Jacobs served as creative director for the Paris-based brand from 1997–2013) or a fresh start for former Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquière. The brand has provided little insight into end of the highly successful collaboration, saying only that the brand would like to “look forward.”
The inaugural 2003 Murakami Multicolore Monogram collection (the “it” bags of the early aughts, now as iconic as the brand’s original brown monogram design) was a revolutionary quid-pro-quo partnership, lifting Murakami from art world star to bonafide celebrity and galvanizing the staid French luxury house with a shot of cutting-edge culture. (Murakami introduced the Superflat movement in 2001, a style that fused traditional Japanese aesthetics with post-war Japanese culture and epitomized Japanese kitsch.)
The legally-minded among us will note that the Murakami-created prints were heavily copied in the years to follow their introductions, and some of Louis Vuitton's most noteworthy lawsuits over the past decade have stemmed from others' copying of such works. The design house's lawsuit against American accessories brand, Dooney and Bourke (which LV actually lost) largely centered on the brand's copying of Murakami's white Multicolore design.
The brand's lawsuit against Britney Spears was regarding the use of Murakami's Cherry Print design on the dashboard of a car that appeared in her music for "Do Somethin'" Another legal scuffle that was the result of a Murakami-print copy was the suit against Danish artist Nadia Plessner, who used the white Multicolore design in an alleged parody work.
And that's not all. These are the instances of copying that when unlitigated (as far as we know). You may recall Machine Guns Vegas's "Louis Vuitton" gun, which made use of the black Multicolore design, and the socks that Cool Socks, was offering. The Chicago-based brand, which appears to have folded, was offering an array of infringing socks, including ones bearing Murakami's camouflage and floral designs.
In short, the discontinuation of the Murakami designs will certainly help alleviate some of the copying and some of the house's need to actively enforce the intellectual property rights connected therewith.