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Warner Bros Sued For Pirating Louis Vuitton Trademark 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the snake-eating-its-own-tail dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "You have to love a case where Warner Brothers, copyright maximalist extraordinaire, gets sued for 'piracy,' in this case for using a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag in a recent movie. This lawsuit has been described as 'awkward' for Warner; I have to agree with that characterization. Louis Vuitton's 22-page complaint (PDF) alleges that Warner Bros. had knowledge that the bag was a knock-off, but went ahead and used it anyway. Apparently Warner Bros. takes IP rights seriously only when its own IP rights are involved."
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Warner Bros Sued For Pirating Louis Vuitton Trademark

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:12PM (#38496352)

    they will just shift the blame to some other person or just pin it on a intern.

  • The spambots are gonna go NUTS on this thread...they'll be on-topic for once.

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:14PM (#38496372) Homepage Journal

    Now, according to the usual MPAA calculations and the fact that petilions* of people will see that movie, they now must pay Louis Vuitton about 5 zetalions* dollars.

    * The MPAA and RIAA aren't the only ones who can come up with stupid numbers.

  • I so Looove Louis Vuittonnn!

    I don't have any, I won't buy any, but I soo loove Louis Vuittonnn!

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      It's a damn bag. For crying out loud it's a damned ugly bag too.

      • What about the Guns and other weapons that aren't real
        do production companies need to pay money for those product placements
  • curious case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:21PM (#38496414)

    It does indeed put WB in an awkward position, because the best defenses here are some variety of permissive fair use. I do think there is a reasonable case for this sort of use of trademarks in fictional settings being given wide leeway, though. For example, mockups of vehicles or boats, or their interiors, are frequently used on film sets as stand-ins for the real thing, usually for practical reasons. Should that be illegal?

    • For example, mockups of vehicles or boats, or their interiors, are frequently used on film sets as stand-ins for the real thing, usually for practical reasons. Should that be illegal?

      They usually avoid calling the props by a brand name unless it's product placement. In this case, they were just using "Louis Vuitton" as a synonym for "expensive".

    • Re:curious case (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 (953645) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:43PM (#38496584)

      A mockup of an BMW is not going to excuse the studio from getting permission from BMW. It may make it cheaper, but it won't eliminate it.

      The thing is, they were presenting the LV bag as a legit LV bag, explicitly using the LV brand on film. But WB knew it wasn't real, were warned it wasn't, and went ahead anyway. Now, if there was a payoff joke at the end where they go, "It's not a LV! Look! You can tell by the cross-section!" that might have worked. I dunno, not a lawyer.

      Either way, the goddamn thing cost $80 mil to make and it returned $250 mil stateside. No excuse WB couldn't have dug around in a cushion for a legit bag to satiate the legal beagles. Take an olive out of every salad for Ed Helms; it worked for American Airlines...

      • Heck, they could have bought the real bag, used it in the movie, and auctioned it off afterwards as a famous movie prop and probably gotten more for it than they paid. This is assuming the item was not destroyed while making the film. I have not seen it and have no plans to.

      • by houghi (78078)

        Either way, the goddamn thing cost $80 mil to make and it returned $250 mil stateside.

        But be bad for them loosing so much money on a movie.

        Signed,
        your Hollywood Accountant.

    • Re:curious case (Score:4, Informative)

      by Plunky (929104) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:43PM (#38496588)

      use of trademarks representing a non genuine item, is not allowed.. that mockup of a vehicle or a boat or a secret under-volcano hideaway well now, are they branded items?

      I'm sorry, but I reckon WB could have purchased a LV bag and used it without paying a penny for licensing and LV would have been delighted at the free coverage..

      • I'm sorry, but I reckon WB could have purchased a LV bag and used it without paying a penny for licensing and LV would have been delighted at the free coverage..

        Can a lawyer confirm this? Inquiring minds want to know.

        Also: Could they have used the fake bag and just not mention the trademarked name? Like wearing levis in the movie, but never mentioning them?

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        That's what I was thinking. Considering the high level of product placement in movies, they could have easily acquired one for free. Makes zero sense to me why they didn't. Past that, what a bunch of hypocrites.
    • Re:curious case (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:48PM (#38496632)

      In this case, (yes, I actually read, er, skimmed the legal complaint) WB used knock off bags and luggage in a scene, but had a character refer to them as Louis Vuitton products. According to LV, this will create confusion in the public's mind about the knockoff's monogram vs. LV's trademarked emblems. Plus, LV had filed a complaint with WB before releasing the film to DVD and blu-ray which WB chose to ignore. So LV is seeking damages for intentional trademark violation and a couple of other infractions. Had the film not specifically mentioned LV in the dialog, there probably wouldn't have been a case.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They should also push for ICE to seize the WB domain as it's encouraging the purchase of films which use pirated and wilful trademark infringing material.

      • by bakes (87194)

        Maybe the character in the film didn't know that they were knock-offs, and really believed that they were real LV?

    • by Surt (22457)

      I'd say their best defense would be to call it a documentary about fake LV bags. It clearly wasn't a comedy, so it works out.

  • How is is possible to know if the bag was a knockoff or not? It can sometimes be impossible to tell when looking at them up-close, never mind a glance of one in a movie. The only way cops are able to shut down the shops selling these is basically by profiling the shops themselves. Shop run out of flea market space/van + high fashion handbag / low price ~= fake. Works 99.999% of the time.

    And the funny thing is the real bags are made at least as unethically as the fakes.

  • LV has a weak case here. Warner isn't making anything LV makes. They themselves didn't make an infringing product. They just showed pictures of one.

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      I don't make anything Warner makes, I won't make an infringing movie, I will just post clips of theirs on YouTube... I think we both know how that would end. But regardless, this has got to be embarrassing for Warner - multibillion movie giant can't afford to rent a real LV bag for the movie shoot?
    • by Zironic (1112127) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:53PM (#38496666)

      You're not legally allowed to make advertisements for counterfeit products even if it's not your counterfeit product.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        A movie is not an advertisement. Well, good movies are not advertisements....

        • by Smallpond (221300)

          "The Paper" would have been a good movie except for the extended Coke product placement which pretty much ruined it.

        • by rust627 (1072296)

          So product placement isn't advertising ?

          Tell the tax office straight away so that they can refuse all the claims for product placement in (Insert multinational of choice name here) advertising budget

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Sure, product placement is advertising, but the movie as a whole isn't advertising; only the portion of it that constitutes a paid product placement is advertising. Unless someone paid WB to advertise Louis Vuitton products, the incidental use of that name in a movie is clearly not a use in commerce.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      And how is this not defamation? I for one am sure my wife did not buy a Luis Vuitton bag now, after seeing how awful this one looked in the movie. Fortunately the real bags look much better, but it's too late for my wife. Secretly I'm glad because maybe we can buy a new car instead.
    • by sjames (1099)

      And explicitly claimed it was the real thing.

      Honestly, I'm skeptical of all of these IP claims, but it's hard to feel much sympathy for the defendant in this case given their past behavior.

  • by sconeu (64226) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:24PM (#38496444) Homepage Journal

    Bwahahahhahahahahahah!!!!

  • by meerling (1487879) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:28PM (#38496474)
    It was used as a prop in a movie. Nobody thinks that's real, like the whiskey and champagne they supposedly drink in the movies, it's just a prop. I'd be amazed if they'd spend the insane amounts of money for one of those ugly bags, when they can get something that looks the same on film for a tenth or less the price.

    If they had said that Louis Vuitton bags caused cancer and alien leprosy, maybe I could see the point of a slander/libel suit (no idea which applies to films), but for using a lookalike prop? OMG - They'd have to start using the real Mona Lisa, Spacecraft, Prize winning Livestock, etc... Yeah, right.
    I think they'd also have a case if the filmmakers were selling the props as the real thing. Obviously selling a prop as a prop is just memorabilia, and not counterfeiting, but as far as I know, they aren't even doing that.

    The Louis Vuitton bag makers have apparently lost their sanity, and this lawsuit is the proof.
    • by BeerCat (685972) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:33PM (#38496500) Homepage

      It was used as a prop in a movie. Nobody thinks that's real, like the whiskey and champagne they supposedly drink in the movies, it's just a prop. I'd be amazed if they'd spend the insane amounts of money for one of those ugly bags, when they can get something that looks the same on film for a tenth or less the price.

      It may be "something that looks the same", but if they didn't ask LV for permission, then it is IP infringement.

      Of course, your argument is based on logic and common sense, something lacking in the murky world of IP 'protection'

    • by erroneus (253617)

      There is probably tons of precedent on this. This is why you frequently see products with their logos taped over or obscured. It's why you see white beer cans with just the word "BEER" on them instead of creating a label which merely looks like a particular brand of beer. "Looking like" an LV bag is enough to win the case I suspect. They probably would have been better off borrowing a bag from one of their wives or girlfriends for the shooting. But who knows.

      The thing I find most troubling about this t

      • A lot of the times, what you are talking is done to avoid giving a certain company free advertisement. This could be a particular problem if the program features Yuengling and Budweiser is one your biggest advertisers. Also, fashion tends to have weaker protection, since trademark doesn't protect functionality, and a big part of the functionality of fashion is looking nice. The design on a beer can doesn't make your beer taste better.
    • by houghi (78078)

      when they can get something that looks the same on film for a tenth or less the price.

      They GET money to use it. Probably the product placement deal fell through and nobody told the writers.

      This will most likely be dealth with out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Most likely not even money, but free product placement in some movies.

      Look for the LV logo on Batmans next costume.

    • It was used as a prop in a movie. Nobody thinks that's real, like the whiskey and champagne they supposedly drink in the movies, it's just a prop.

      For a prop, it's actually referred to by brand. FTFA:

      [...] luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton accused Warner Bros of ignoring its instructions not to use a fake handbag in an airport scene in the Hangover II. In the scene, Alan (played by Zach Galifianakis) carries luggage marked LVM and warns another character “Careful, that is.. that is a Louis Vuitton.”

      It would be one thing if it were a bag and the Louis Vuitton logo was not shown and they didn't have that line. Then it'd be a prop. But when you start having it be a particular brand and refer to that brand, it stops being just a simple prop.

  • by tahuti (744415) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:39PM (#38496566)
    Why it is required permission of the manufacturer to show item in the movie? Second if item is going to be destroyed wouldn't it be expected for fake to be used? Is it legally required or "keep court away".
    • by mapuche (41699)

      It's a a trademarked item, they need clearance to use their image. It's the work of the producers to get this permission:

      http://www.ehow.com/about_6459371_trademark-symbol-usage-movies.html

  • LV bags are expensive -- and the magic aura is created by having chosen celebrities photographed. I'm not sure how mentioning a brand name is *ever* relevant to the plot of a movie. Basically LV is getting free mention -- were they too cheap to provide the goods?
    • If it's a fake, it is potentially damaging to the brand.

      Don't forget that there are reasons why really expensive stuff is really expensive. Yes, part of it is paying for brand identity, and people who buy LV bags aren't going to balk over $50 or $100. But they expect insanely high quality, and they get it - genuine high-end stuff really is made with better, softer leather. It's hand-stitched. It's highly durable. My mother-in-law has a Vuitton purse that has withstood ten years of near-daily use. A friend
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        But they expect insanely high quality, and they get it - genuine high-end stuff really is made with better, softer leather. It's hand-stitched. It's highly durable.

        None of which is relevant in a prop, as you can't see "soft", "durable", or "hand-stitched" on the screen. I mean, as much as I'd love to see WB lose some sort of high-profile IP infringement case to make a mockery of them, this may be the dumbest possible example of IP infringement I can think of.

        Heck, I'm not convinced it is actual infringeme

  • Missing the joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday December 26, 2011 @03:49PM (#38496646)
    I haven't seen the film so I can't confirm it, but in the clip Zach's character clearly mispronounces Louis Vuitton as Lewis Vuitton. That would seem to suggest he knows jack shit about fashion. I can't find a high quality shot of the bag itself, but TFA says the bag is "marked LVM." That would seem to suggest that it's a rather pathetic knockoff, and that's possibly the joke itself. Thus, LV wants WB to pretend a real LV is a fake LV, and deserves to be slapped for being so stupid.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I pretty sure these people see the joke. The thing is ... they don't have a sense of humor that is even recognizably human.

      Personal anecdote, at my job, we're serving the web needs of one of these high end jewelry/fashion companies and they are beyond ridiculous when its comes to presenting their brand. Our art director managed to put a wrong albeit all too similar font in an internal mockup and the company accused him of "demeaning the brand". Not a "hey, you got the wrong font" but a "you just metaphor

  • If it's wilful, they get enhanced damages assessed against them.

    But you know, those movie makers always "make a loss" on every movie. It's the other supporting companies which they also own which make the profits. This way they can claim they didn't make any money and cheat everyone who signed up for a portion of the profits. It's how they work. So if the awarded damages are a portion or even ALL of the money they made from a given movie, LV will get nothing. I hope LV's lawyers are already well aware

  • The bag was portraying a Louis Vuitton bag. That doesn't mean it really is one. It's fiction. They didn't really lose someone in Thailand either.

  • Perhaps LV should just release a bag based on the one in the move. What are the makers of the 'knock offs' going to do, sue them?
  • (How many people saw the film + how many dvd's being made) * price of an original LV bag * punitive penalty

  • In other news: Walther sues Bond movie for not using a real gun...

  • They'll have pirated an image of a fake, so clearly LV doesn't have a claim, and WB would be trying to assert IP rights for a fraudulent product. IANAL, but that could create some interesting arguments.

  • It's just a prop. Do props have to be the real thing? Should we sue because the nuclear sub in a movie isn't a real nuclear sub? How about an intergalactic space ship? Maybe we should go back to obvious props like laundry detergent being labeled "SOAP" and soda pop being labeled "COLA" and so on.

    Or maybe expand the standard disclaimer "any resemblence to real people or events is uninentional" to add "or objects".

    • by Issarlk (1429361)
      I'm sure there would have been no problem if the bad had appeared in the movie, without being called "Louis Vuiton". The problem is the character calling it a "Louis Vuiton".
  • It's always a source of amusement to see the moving pictures industry go after people over intellectual property issues, when their origins (and placement in the republic of California) was due to them skirting the intellectual property laws of their day.

    And now they're trying to defend themselves against an IP suit. Fun when you're the one suing, not so much when you're the one being sued.

  • Warner could have called it "Brand X Bag" or damn well anything else and been fine, but they wanted the trademark name recognition without actually having to pay for the trademark in any way. It's funny because it's exactly what they've been claiming everyone else does. I'm sure there are special provisions in the SOPA for exactly this sort of "Piracy" too! Good thing it hasn't been passed yet or Warner Execs would suddenly find themselves at Gitmo getting their testicles shocked until it is deemed that the
  • ... are people who "own" them - otherwise people know its a sham.

  • You have to hand it to us fashionable queers, we don't take this kind of shit lightly.

  • Sooo funny (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SilverBlade2k (1005695) on Monday December 26, 2011 @11:19PM (#38499774)
    Lets see what would happen if Louis Vuitton succeeded if SOPA was in place: 1) Louis Vuitton would force all theatres to stop showing the movie 2) Would have all DVD/Blu-ray copies pulled from the shelves 3) Would have all of the WB execs pay a huge fine 4) Have all of WB's websites pulled down 5) Have all of WB's movies pulled from shelves My sick/cynical self kind of wants to see SOPA pass, to see how it would explode in the faces of those who endorsed it.
    • by Legion303 (97901)

      0) WB cuts LV an enormous check, CEOs go golfing together and have a hearty laugh at the little people being ruined by SOPA.

  • Fair Use? (Score:4, Informative)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @01:04AM (#38500182)

    I didn't read the articles (Hey, this is Slashdot), but here goes:

    Couldn't the use of a LV bag in a movie be considered fair use? And if the fact that it was a knock-off is material to the script*, that to might be 'fair use' of the right to make a knock-off prop.

    If fair use doesn't apply, then how would it be possible to make a film on location someplace like NYC? You can't swing a deceased feline in that city without seeing a trademark on the side of a building. And if its not a location shoot, but a CGI recreation of a city, then the studio is effectively copying an entire scene full of trademarks.

    *If its not material, then WB could sue the supplier for selling a fake to their prop department.

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