Ready To Wear: Is this brand protection or control freakery?

 

New year; new fashion spat. And it's a big one.

Louis Vuitton – the mother of all luxury brands – celebrated the dawn of 2012 by ding-dong-merrily initiating a lawsuit. This was aimed not, as one might imagine, at one of the many counterfeiters that sell copies of its monogrammed bags, but at Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.

According to Women's Wear Daily, Vuitton alleges that Warner Bros ignored its pleas to cut the airport scene featuring fake bags in The Hangover Part II where Zach Galifianakis travels with luggage stamped with "LVM" and warns his co-star: "Careful, that's Louis Vuitton", from the DVD release of the film. The fact that his character is more likely to be carrying fleas than the real thing (pictured) has no clout, apparently. Vuitton insists the scene may cause what it describes as "consumer confusion" to viewers of the film nonetheless. Warner Bros has yet to comment.

Of course, putting a stop to any such misunderstanding may prove more than a little lucrative. Vuitton is seeking profits from the film, which grossed roughly $580m, and triple damages. Warner Bros is also being asked to destroy all copies of The Hangover Part II along with promotional materials that include the scene in question. And yes, it does read like an April Fool's Day prank, but it's only January...

Whichever way one chooses to look at it, such posturing on the part of this fashion behemoth is debatably worth the price of any legal fees (they'll be huge, clearly) and that applies whatever the eventual outcome may be. But isn't it also just a little over the top? There's brand protection and, in real life, control freakery. French law is big on counterfeiting and rightly so: the country's big names are responsible for employing men and women who have passed down their craft through generations. But can these few slapstick seconds really harm such a renowned reputation? I once asked Patrick Louis Vuitton, one of the last remaining family members to work with the company, how to tell the difference between a real Louis Vuitton bag and a copy. His answer? "The Louis Vuitton product speaks for itself, for its quality. Through the elegance of the product and the elegance of the person who carries it one can easily identify whether it is real."

And that says it all.

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