Must Louis Vuitton at last start paying for its trademark bullying?

by Paul Alan Levy

Over the past couple of weeks, several bloggers, most impressively Rebecca Tushnet, have published their analyses of a decision by Judge Jesse Furman granting summary judgment dismissing a lawsuit by Louis Vuitton Malletier against a tiny company called “My Other Bag” which produces a line of canvas totes that poke gentle fun at the famous Louis Vuitton handbag design by placing the hand-scrawled words “My Other Bag...” on one side and a photo of the Louis Vuitton “toile” design in which the letters “LV” are replaced by MOB. Louis Vuitton sued for both dilution and infringement of its mark, as infringement of its copyright, but Judge Furman recognized the apparent parody that made out a defense of fair use; he also held that Louis Vuitton had shown neither dilution (because referring to a a famous mark strengthens the mark’s association with its owner, rather than blurring that association) nor likelihood of confusion as required for a claim of infringement.