In a court session at the New York Federal Court, Warner Brothers declared that they had a First Amendment right to feature trademarks without requiring the consent of the rights owners. This move has been done as a part of a defense against a lawsuit by Louis Vuitton over copycat handbags shown in The Hangover Part II.
Louis Vuitton sued Warner Bros. over the Hangover II handbag in December because of the scenes the included the bag. The company, a French fashion house known for its legal litigiousness, targeted Warner Brothers over a scene in the movie where a character is shoved while carrying a LVM marked bag. In all, the clip is 25 seconds and parodies the French brand’s sensitivity about counterfeits. The humorous mispronunciation of the label’s name, coupled with the knock-off bag, triggered the trademark infringement case.
Louis Vuitton claims that the bag used in the film was crafted by Chinese-American company Diophy, and created a consumer confusion issue that directly impacted their brand. Louis Vuitton demanded millions of dollars in damages if the scenes weren’t deleted.
Andrew Bart and Gianni Servodidio from Jenner & Block are representing Warner Brothers in the case. They state that Louis Vuitton is trying to circumvent the Rogers case through the arguments that the precedent would only protect a genuine bag rather than a ‘knockoff’. However, the studio states that the First Amendment doesn’t turn on whether an expressive work depicts a genuine trademarked product or an imitation.
In its efforts to have the case dismissed, Warner Brothers states the issue is really the freedom of the author to incorporate references to real life – including references to trademarks and even to counterfeit goods. The studio claims that Louis Vuitton should consider targeting Diophy rather than the studio in this trademark law case, as Diophy is the one claimed to have sold the knockoff product used in the film.