A Fashion Lawyer Weighs In On the Louis Vuitton vs Pooey Puitton Lawsuit
Welcome to 2019, where the makers of a poop-shaped slime kit are in a legal battle with a historic fashion house.
We know Louis Vuitton is no stranger to counterfeit lawsuits. But as it turns out, the fashion house also has a fair bit of experience with parody lawsuits. In the past, it has filed claims in court over a Vuitton-bag-resembling chew toy for dogs dubbed Chewy Vuiton, and a line of canvas totes screenprinted with images of iconic Vuitton bags. Now, the latest lawsuit it’s embroiled in is against one Pooey Puitton, which isn’t a handbag at all but a children’s kit for creating “magical unicorn slime.”
An important distinction though, is that it’s the makers of the Poopsie Slime Surprise Pooey Puitton suing Louis Vuitton, not the other way around. According to The Fashion Law, the toy company behind the product, MGA Entertainment Inc, got wind that a lawsuit against them was in the works, and “[i]n an attempt to preemptively shut down any potential claims of trademark infringement that Louis Vuitton might lodge against it and/or any of the retailers stocking its popular toy, Los Angeles-based MGA asserts that “no reasonable consumer would mistake the Pooey product for a Louis Vuitton handbag” due to the differences in price, materials, marketing, stockists, and purpose of the two parties’ products.”
The Fashion Law further notes that “likelihood of confusion—or mistake” is the basis of trademark infringement claims, and “MGA argues that it should be shielded from any trademark infringement and dilution liability because its Pooey Puitton product is a “sufficiently obvious and blatant” parody.” Makes sense, given that a) it’s in the shape of the poop emoji b) it retails for under $100.
“I imagine MGA, being a large corporation and experienced purveyor of children’s toys, has ample legal resources and likely would have consulted its legal counsel before developing the Pooey Puitton toy and bringing it to market,” says Anjli Patel, a Toronto-based fashion lawyer.
Louis Vuitton lost both its prior lawsuits against Haute Diggity Dog (the makers of Chewy Vuiton) and My Other Bag (they of the canvas totes), on the grounds that the products were clearly parodies. “The court found [those products] to be a successful parody, with no likelihood of confusion and no trademark dilution. So MGA has a strong precedent to rely on to avoid liability,” says Patel. According to The Fashion Law, “a “parody” is a defined “as simple form of entertainment conveyed by juxtaposing an irreverent representation of a trademark with the idealized image created by the mark’s owner. In order to succeed at this, a parody must convey two simultaneous and yet contradictory messages: namely that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody. The second message is important because it must not only differentiate the parody from the original, but it must also “communicate some articulable element of satire, ridicule, joking or amusement.””
I’m no lawyer but the Pooey Puitton seems to achieve that on both counts: it establishes itself as a version of the original through a rhyming name and design elements that closely resemble the iconic LV monogram, while at the same time achieving a satirical tone (again: poop emoji! Unicorn slime!). MGA is also clearly marketing the product as a DIY slime kit for kids (not a high-end handbag) and notes in its legal complaint that, “The use of the Pooey name and Pooey product in association with a product line of ‘magical unicorn poop’ is intended to criticise or comment upon the rich and famous, the Louis Vuitton name, the LV marks, and on their conspicuous consumption.”
Basically, their satire game seems strong.