Louis Vuitton has been handed a favorable ruling in an ongoing trademark infringement case in Taiwan. The Paris-based luxury brand, which is notoriously protective of its valuable intellectual property, filed suit against Yi Ze Tian International Co., Ltd., parent company to fashion brand, iki2, alleging that it was selling bags that bore Louis Vuitton’s EPI trademark (above, left) in violation of Taiwanese Trademark Law and Fair Trade Law. The Taiwan Intellectual Property Court ruled in Louis Vuitton’s favor late last month, ordering Yi Ze Tian to make a public apology to Louis Vuitton and to pay a hefty damages amount.
The most recent ruling comes on the heels of a loss for Louis Vuitton at the district court level. The Prosecutor Office of the Taipei District court concluded last year that Louis Vuitton’s EPI mark, which consists of an embossed wave-like design, was “a product appearance design only,” and did not function as a trademark. Moreover, the lower court held that there was no sufficient evidence showing that the defendant intentionally used Louis Vuitton’s EPI trademark on its own bags.
Not surprisingly, Louis Vuitton appealed the court’s decision and the Taiwan Intellectual Property Court has held that iki2’s unauthorized use of Louis Vuitton’s EPI trademark has not only caused serious damaged to Louis Vuitton by causing consumer confusion as to the source of the iki2 bags (although the defendant argued no such confusion existed), thereby weakening the strength of the Louis Vuitton mark. The court also stated that the defendant’s sale of the bags has also served to hinder Louis Vuitton’s reputation for exclusivity and superior level quality.
Moreover, the court held that the EPI pattern does in fact amount to more than a design feature, and is subject to trademark protection. According to the court’s decision, due to Louis Vuitton’s longstanding use of the EPI pattern (since the mid-1980’s) and its consistent promotion of the mark, it has been a famous trademark in the eyes of the fashion industry and general customers, alike. Thus, the Taiwan Intellectual Property Court also held that iki2’s sale of bags bearing the EPI mark constitute trademark infringement and unfair competition, and that iki2 should not be permitted to “take a free ride on the LV's reputation.”
In addition to damages, the court ordered Yi Ze Tian to issue a public apology to Louis Vuitton by way of a half page placement in the Economic Daily News.