19 March 2019Copyright

Louis Vuitton not liable for My Other Bag legal fees

Luxury fashion company Louis Vuitton isn’t liable to pay nearly $803,000 in legal bills that My Other Bag (MOB) incurred over the course of the parties’ litigation.

On Friday, March 15, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision not to award legal fees to MOB in the trademark and copyright dispute.

The conflict began in June 2014, when Louis Vuitton filed a claim against MOB, alleging that MOB’s bags that on one side say “My Other Bag ...” and on the other have a Louis Vuitton design, diluted the famous brand.

Since then, Louis Vuitton has suffered a series of setbacks.

In January 2016, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York  rejected the luxury brand’s complaint, a ruling that Louis Vuitton appealed against.

District Judge Jesse Furman, in the January 2016 ruling, said that MOB’s tote bags are “just as obviously a joke, and one does not necessarily need to be familiar with the ‘my other car’ trope to get the joke or to get the fact that the totes are meant to be taken in jest”.

Furman added: “In some cases, however, it is better to ‘accept the implied compliment in [a] parody’ and to smile or laugh than it is to sue.”

On appeal, in December 2016, a Second Circuit panel affirmed the district court’s ruling.

Again, Louis Vuitton appealed against the decision and, in its rehearing request, argued that the Second Circuit had based its finding of a parody “solely on its subjective view” that the bags were “obviously a joke”.

Two months later, the Second Circuit  refused to rehear Louis Vuitton’s case en banc.

WIPR readers, when surveyed, were closely split over whether the Second Circuit should have agreed to rehear the parody dispute, with 55% of our readers believing the court should not grant the appeal.

Following the Second Circuit’s decision, Louis Vuitton attempted to take its case to the US’s highest court,  filing a petition with the US Supreme Court in July 2017. But, a few months later, in October, the Supreme Court dismissed the brand’s petition.

This was not the end of the altercation between the luxury brand and bag company, as the parties were also involved in a dispute over costs.

In January 2016, MOB’s lawyers filed a motion at the New York asking it to rule that the case was “exceptional” and demanding Louis Vuitton pay its $400,000 legal bill. This amount was later increased to nearly $803,000.

Two years later, in January 2018, Furman  declined to award fees and costs to MOB.

“As this court’s decision granting summary judgment to MOB made clear, Louis Vuitton certainly needs to learn how to take a joke. Its lack of a refined sense of humour, however, is not a reason to pile on further by awarding MOB—however sympathetic its cause may be—attorney’s fees and costs,” said Furman.

MOB appealed against the decision, but last Friday, the Second Circuit upheld Furman’s decision.

“Under the circumstances of this case, we find no abuse of discretion in the district court’s analysis and its decision not to award fees under the Lanham Act,” said the Second Circuit.

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More on this story

12 January 2017   French luxury fashion company Louis Vuitton has filed an appeal for an en banc rehearing of its trademark and copyright dispute with My Other Bag.
20 July 2017   Fashion house Louis Vuitton has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the US Supreme Court in a parody dispute with a company called My Other Bag.
15 May 2019   In a victory for fashion brand Louis Vuitton, a US federal court dismissed a suit involving a poop-shaped toy purse called ‘Pooey Puitton’.