Warner Bros. has responded to Louis Vuitton's claims of trademark infringement in its 2011 comedy The Hangover Part II. The film firm told a New York federal court last week that movies have a First Amendment right to feature trademarks as part of creative expression without the consent of rights owners.
The offending scene saw Zach Galifianakis' character Alan Garner wearing a bag marked LVM. When it is jostled, Alan quips "Be careful, that is ... that is a Lewis Vuitton." Vuitton claims the purse was made by Chinese-American imitators Diophy, and that the 25-second movie scene created "consumer confusion."
Warner's biggest defence is the precedence set by the 1989 case of Rogers versus Grimaldi. In that case actress Ginger Rogers sued the creators of the film Ginger and Fred. She argued that the movie wasn't about her and her costar Fred Astaire, but two fictional Italian cabaret performers that imitated the actors. She claimed the movie consumed viewers into thinking Ginger and Fred was about her, and had her seal of approval. However the 2nd Circuit disagreed and said Ginger and Fred was simple "an exercise of artistic expression rather than commercial speech."
It's a compelling argument, but Louis Vuitton lawyers tend to be the best in the business. Do you think Warner Bros' can wriggle out of this one?
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