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Fourth Circuit: Chewy Vuiton not likely to be confused with or dilute Louis Vuitton trademarks

November 15, 2007
Post by Blog Staff

The Fourth Circuit Tuesday affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment of no trademark infringement or dilution. At issue were dog toys that parodied the trademarks and trade dress of Louis Vuitton. The Fourth Circuit agreed that the successful parody resulted in no trademark infringement. On the trademark dilution claim, the court rejected the lower court's reasoning because the district court failed to fully apply the relevant dilution factors, but reached the same conclusion that there was no likely dilution.More detail of Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog, LLC after the jump.Louis Vuitton is well known for its luxury luggage, leather, handbags and accessories having offered its products for sale worldwide since 1896, and is the owner of several federal trademark registrations for its "Louis Vuitton" mark and the famous "LV" monogram. Although better known for its consumer products, Louis Vuitton also markets a few high-end pet products, such as leashes, collars and carriers, selling for between $200 and $1,600.Haute Diggity Dog ("HDD"), a small, relatively new business, sells a line of pet chew toys and beds, all of whose names parody high-end brands, including "Sniffany & Co." (Tiffany & Co.), "Dog Perignonn" (Dom Perignon) and "Jimmy Chew" (Jimmy Choo) and which generally sell for less than $20 an item. At issue in this case were the "Chewy Vuiton" line of dog toys and dog beds. These Chewy Vuiton items were marked with an interlocking "CV" monogram highly similar to Louis Vuitton's LV logo. Likewise the Chewy Vuiton products had colors that were similar to the Louis Vuitton products. Louis Vuitton sued HDD for among other things trademark infringement and dilution, and last fall HDD prevailed on its motion for summary judgment. The district court rested its analysis on each count principally on the conclusion that the Chewy Vuiton products constituted a successful parody of Louis Vuitton's trademarks and trade dress. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that the "Chewy Vuiton" toys are successful parodies of the Louis Vuitton trademarks. Essentially, the court found the toys to be an obvious irreverent representation of the Louis Vuitton handbag, albeit much smaller and coarser (these are made of polyester). Thus, the court held no one can doubt that the Louis Vuitton bags are the target of the imitation by HDD. At the same time, no one can doubt also that the dog toy is not the "idealized image" of the mark because these products are inexpensive, somewhat crude in appearance plush dog toys. This juxtaposition immediately conveys satire. The Court went on to analyze the standard likelihood of confusion factors before concluding that there was no likelihood of confusion. Specifically, the Court found that in this parody case, Louis Vuitton's fame is precisely the reason why confusion is less likely. In other words because the mark is so well recognized with luxury products, consumers will readily recognize the parody intended when they see an inexpensive "Chewy Vuitton" pet toy. The Court also found that HDD appropriately mimicked a part of the Louis Vuitton brand while simultaneously distinguishing its products to communicate the parody. Still further, the Court found that confusion is unlikely because the parties' products are distinct and offered for sale in different retail outlets. Finally, the court found there was no actual confusion. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of HDD on the issue of trademark infringement. In evaluating the dilution by blurring claim, the Fourth Circuit initially emphasized that "parody is not automatically a complete defense to a claim of dilution by blurring where the defendant uses the parody as its own designation of source, i.e., as a trademark." However, the Fourth Circuit held that in order to prevail on a dilution claim, Louis Vuitton had the difficult burden of demonstrating that the distinctiveness of its famous marks is likely to be impaired by a successful parody. This, it found, Louis Vuitton could not do because even as HDD's parody mimics the famous mark, it simultaneously communicates that it is not the famous mark because there are sufficient distinctions in the look of the marks.Finally, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the dilution by tarnishment claim out of hand upon finding that Louis Vuitton offered nothing other than speculation as to how its reputation could be harmed (such as speculation that a dog could choke on a "Chewy Vuiton" toy).

This case is interesting as it is the first Fourth Circuit case to apply the standards of the Trademark Dilution Revision Act, enacted in 2006.

To read the full decision in Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog, LLC, click here.Rebecca Tushnet's 43(b)log provides commentary on the decision here. She also provides commentary on the district court's decision here, and photos of one of the chew toys here.

Susan Scafaldi at Counterfeit Chic provides this post, with pictures of the Vuitton originals and the related dog toys.


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