In what appeared to be an act of petty desperation to obtain money, fancy pants handbag company Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. claiming that their 2011 film, The Hangover: Part II violated the company’s trademark by showing a knock-off LV bag. LV insisted that the film caused audiences to believe that the offending bag, produced by the company Diophy, was in fact an authentic LV bag. The judge on the case, however, dismissed the claim and very thoroughly explained why he did so. The scene in question is below.
The judge first explains that, “The artistic relevance prong ensures that the defendant intended an artistic—i.e., noncommercial—association with the plaintiff’s mark, as opposed to one in which the defendant intends to associate with the mark to exploit the mark’s popularity and good will.” You can read the entire document here.
In plain terms, Warner Bros. intention of featuring the knock off bag was not intended to defile LV’s brand name. Rather, the inclusion of the product was a means to define Alan’s (Zach Galifianakis) character.
The judge (who clearly knows something about comedy) continues,
Alan’s terse remark to Teddy to “[be] [c]areful” because his bag “is a Lewis Vuitton” comes across as snobbish only because the public signifies Louis Vuitton—to which the Diophy bag looks confusingly similar—with luxury and a high society lifestyle. (See Compl. ¶ 20.) His remark also comes across as funny because he mispronounces the French “Louis” like the English “Lewis,” and ironic because he cannot correctly pronounce the brand name of one of his expensive possessions, adding to the image of Alan as a socially inept and comically misinformed character. This scene also introduces the comedic tension between Alan and Teddy that appears throughout the Film.
Lastly, the statement ends with this:
In the context of [Warner Bros.'s] motion to dismiss, courts have disposed of trademark claims where simply looking at [The Hangover] itself, and the context in which it appears, demonstrates how implausible it is that a viewer will be confused into believing that the plaintiff endorsed the defendant’s work (and without relying on the likelihood of confusion factors to do so).
Nice try, Louis Vuitton. But you lose!