Parody in Fashion
Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the Southern District of New York’s finding in Louis Vuitton v. My Other Bag, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23014, 2016 WL 7436489 (2d Cir. N.Y. Dec. 22, 2016). The case was brought by Louis Vuitton (“LV”) in response to the My Other Bag’s sales of products that, according to LV, imitated Louis Vuitton’s bag styles. The lower court ultimately held that My Other Bag’s products were to be considered parodies and thus not infringing of Louis Vuitton’s bags. Louis Vuitton appealed to the Second Circuit.
Affirming the decision of the district court, the Second Circuit pointed to various factors to find no likelihood of confusion as to the source of My Other Bag’s products. Specifically, the Second Circuit emphasized the disparity in the parties’ respective markets, noting that Louis Vuitton’s high-end bags were in stark contrast to the everyday tote bags offered by My Other Bag. Furthermore, the Second Circuit made it clear that between defendant’s use of interlocking “M,” “O,” and “Bs” to replace Louis Vuitton’s famous interlocking “L” and “V” and its use of a caricature drawing depicting a high-end bag on the outside of its tote bag, My Other Bag had proven no likelihood of confusion and thus no trademark infringement.
The court elaborated that My Other Bag’s products were parodies and protected under the fair use doctrine. In its explanation, the Second Circuit wrote, “Parody must convey two simultaneous—and contradictory—messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody. . . MOB's bags do precisely that.” This was accomplished, according to the court, through MOB’s recognizable mimic of Louis Vuitton’s designs and handbags “as a drawing on a product that is such a conscious departure from LV's image of luxury—in combination with the slogan ‘My other bag’—as to convey that MOB's tote bags are not LV handbags.” By parodying and commenting on the idea of Louis Vuitton’s high-end bags, My Other Bag was protected under fair use.