23rd apr, 2008

Can art offend a trademark?

The Answer to the question in the title is of cause yes. Louis Vuitton is one of the latest brands offended by an artist. As several media reported today artist Nadja Plesner has been contacted by Louis Vuitton because the company in its wisdom has decided that her artwork supporting a campaign to stop genocide in Darfur is offending the company. Plesner created a picture of a hungry child holding a Paris Hilton style dog and a luxury handbag. It is the handbag which has caused all the controversy. The bag resemples a Louis Vuitton bag, but has altered the logos on the bag. Now the megacorp is threatening Nadja with daily fines of more that 100.000 DKK for the use of the companys trademark and copyright. So what to think of this? Well of cause it’s pretty horrible. Vuitton is offended that Nadja Plesner portrays a pirated handbag in her picture…I actually think that it adds to the pictures strength. The image of an african child fighting poverty but still wanting to purchase branded goods is very strong, and a fact of life I myself encountered while in Africa. All these poor people struggling for food but still using the money they scrape together to by pirated brands. And then we consider the legal threat. Of cause Vuitton has the IP rights to their handbag, but Nadja Plesner does not use their exact trademark (but do come a bit close) and the bag design is somewhat similar to the Audra bag. And furthermore Nadja Plesner is supposedly offending the company by posting their letter on her website. And then the venue: Nadja is a dane living in the Netherlands and being sued in France? That can´t be. Look at the EU judgment Convention Act article 2 which says: Subject to the provisions of this Convention, persons domiciled in a Contracting State shall, whatever their nationality, be sued in the courts of that State. Maybe article 5 (3) could serve as a stepping stone for a French legal action, but that’s not at all certain.   


And above all this is the question: Is it the right thing to do to sue an artist using what some would say is your product….and threaten her in the harshest way possible? Well it brought LEGOa lot of bad will as it will Louis Vuitton.

The offending picture  


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