July 15, 2024

Don't Upset the Intellectual Property Fashion Police

A student group at the University of Pennsylvania Law School has put together a fantastic symposium on the state of fashion law, but along the way they (allegedly) snagged themselves on Louis Vuitton’s trademarks. After creating a poster with a creative parody of the Louis Vuitton logo, they received a Cease & Desist letter from the company’s attorneys claiming:

While every day Louis Vuitton knowingly faces the stark reality of battling and interdicting the proliferation of infringements of the LV Trademarks, I was dismayed to learn that the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Penn Intellectual Property Group had misappropriated and modified the LV Trademarks and Toile Monogram as the background for its invitation and poster for the March 20, 2012 Annual Symposium on “IP Issues in Fashion Law.”

Ironically, the symposium aims to further education and understanding of the state of intellectual protection in the fashion industry, and to discuss controversial new proposals to expand the scope of protection, such as the proposed bill H.R. 2511, the “Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act”.

The attorneys at Penn responded by letter, indicating that Louis Vuitton’s complaint failed any conceivable interpretation of trademark law — outlining the standard claims such as confusion, blurring, or tarnishment — and asserted the obvious defenses provided by law for noncommercial and educational fair use. It indicated that the general counsel had told the students to “make it work” with the unmodified version of the poster, and concluded by inviting Louis Vuitton attorneys to attend the symposium (presumably to learn a bit more about how trademark law actually works.)

I, for one, am offended that the Center for Information Technology Policy here at Princeton has not received any Cease & Desist letters accusing us of “egregious action [that] is not only a serious willful infringement” of fashion trademarks, but “may also may mislead others into thinking that this type of unlawful behavior is somehow ‘legal’ or constitutes ‘fair use’.” You see, our lecture this Thursday at 12:30pm at Princeton by Deven Desai, “An Information Approach to Trademarks”, has a poster that includes portions of registered fashion industry trademarks as well. Attorneys from Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren, we welcome you to attend our event.


  1. LV’s bags were not designed by the normal LV in house staff, the were designed by a British young lady called Emma Hill, who has a long and enviable succession of success, including having her “accessories” being the first ever on the Paris catwalk.

    When a fashion industry award was handed out for the bags she designed for LV she was not allowed to attend or pick up the award…

    LV and partner are some of the worst stealers of credit known to mankind and the use of lawyers in this way realy does not surprise me in the slightest…

    So give credit where credit is due LV & partner you are the biggest hypocritical stealers of other peopels ideas and talent, whilst being the least talented self promoters around, may you croak like rancid toads on the bubles in the champagne you drink at others expense.

  2. …if only every artist was equally armed.

    The problem isn’t the cease and desist letter, but the cost of challenging one.

    Most of us can’t afford to keep a lawyer on retainer. Without a good defense, a cease and desist letter must be obeyed, or you’ll be sued into oblivion.

  3. Becker Peters says

    obvious defenses provided by law for noncommercial and educational fair use.

    If it’s used for educational, non-commercial purposes, which in this case it is, then using it should be fine. Many posters or art projects made in class for school’s that I have seen are based on something that the student chooses, whether it’s a band or brand or something else that’s trademarked. Part of that band or brand is used and modified in the project. It’s for educational and non-commercial use.


    • Anonymous says

      I don’t think there is such a thing as educational fair use of TRADEMARKS? There is a fair use exception in trademark law, but I’m not sure this is it. It’s certainly not as cut and dry as the University is making it out. I look at that poster and think that LV is sponsoring the symposium.

      • Anonymous says

        Most educational use is exempt from trademark law because it is not “use in commerce” of the mark.

  4. (presumably to learn a bit more about how trademark law actually works.)

    I thought the counsel for Penn showed great restraint and class in the invitation for the conference by not even hinting that Vuitton’s lawyer might learn something there about trademark law.

  5. Get it, girl!

  6. Mr. Momoto says

    …of witnessing Little Lord Louis Vuitton slapped across his smug face with the parodical imprinted lambskin Penn State dueling glove. Nice.

    • Anonymous says

      Penn State is the state school with the excellent sports teams and subsequent fiasco over Joe Paterno and the institutional protection of an alleged pedophile; University of Pennsylvania is the Ivy League private school. I believe the author is referring to the latter.