Following a January ruling in favor of My Other Bag from the Southern District of New York in a trademark infringement and dilution case initiated by Louis Vuitton, the Paris-based design house filed to appeal the court’s decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week, the case went before the Second Circuit, which, very much like the lower court, took a tough stance against Louis Vuitton. Judge Gerard E. Lynch, one part of a three-judge panel – along with Judges Guido Calabresi and Reena Raggi – presiding over the parties’ arguments, took the design house’s counsel to task in connection with its request for a new trial. According to Louis Vuitton, My Other Bag’s bags, which bear Louis Vuitton’s trademarked logos and distinctive bag shapes, do not amount to parodies (and instead, are using the brand’s famed marks to profit from its established appeal in the market) and thus, are actionable sources of trademark infringement and/or dilution.
In light of a harsh, 31-page ruling from U.S. District Judge M. Furman earlier this year (in which Furman stated, “In some cases, it is better to ‘accept the implied compliment in [a] parody’ and to smile or laugh than it is to sue. This — like Haute Diggity Dog (and, arguably, Hyundai) — is such a case.”), Judge Lynch seems just as skeptical of Louis Vuitton’s stance. He told Louis Vuitton’s counsel in court on Wednesday, “This is a joke. I understand you don’t get the joke. But it’s a joke.”
As for the need for a new trial, which has yet to be determined by the Second Circuit, it seems unlikely. The three judges were “largely on board with the conclusion that Judge Furman was on firm ground when he found the defendant’s bags to be protected parody,” according to Law360. Moreover, Judge Lynch held that Louis Vuitton’s intentions were merely to “bully [My Other Bag] into spending the money on a trial,” when, in actuality, there is a likelihood of confusion or dilution as result of My Other Bag’s presence in the market.
According to Law360, counsel for My Other Bag “portrayed Louis Vuitton is an overaggressive prosecutor of intellectual property cases … that routinely targets marginal defendants including socially conscious artists who invoke the brand with ‘unreasonable’ litigation.”