What Is Trademark Parody, Really? Louis Vuitton Puts UPENN in the Fashion Spotlight for a Perfect Case Study

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Fashion brands are again making news in trademark jurisprudence. If the holding in the Louboutin case left you wanting more, we bring you Louis Vuitton v. U.Penn and the irreverent world of trademark parodies.

The University of Pennsylvania Law School recently held its Annual Symposium on Fashion Law on March 20, 2012, hosted by the Penn Intellectual Property Group (PIPG). PIPG is a student run organization at the law school, focused on enhancing interest in intellectual property within the law school, Penn, and Philadelphia communities. They hold events including career panels, academic symposiums, and social events. Each year, PIPG holds a symposium on fashion law, inviting professors and attorneys in the fashion industry to discuss various topics at issue, in the fashion world. The 2012 symposium was focused on three topics, with separate panels and a keynote speaker entitled: (1) “Trademark and the Fast Fashion Phenomenon; (2) “Copyright for the Fashion Design: Evaluating the IDPPPA”; and (3) the Keynote, “Copyright and the Fall Line.”

In the weeks leading up to the symposium, PIPG posted flyers throughout the law school, advertising the event. The flyers featured the signature Louis Vuitton print, but altered the famous logo. Instead of the famous “LV,” the new logo featured a “TM.” Underneath this altered print, the flyers contained the information regarding the date, times, feature speakers, and topics for the symposium.

Fashion Gets Ugly Where There is Parody

On February 29, 2012, Michael Pantalony, Director of North American Civil Enforcement for Louis Vuitton Malletier sent a cease and desist letter to the Dean of Penn’s Law School, Michael Fitts, regarding the Fashion Law symposium flyer. Mr. Pantalony wrote, “This egregious action is not only a serious willful infringement and knowingly dilutes the LV Trademark, but also may mislead others into thinking that this type of unlawful activity is somehow ‘legal’ or constitutes ‘fair use’ because the Penn Intellectual Property Group is sponsoring a seminar on fashion law and ‘must be experts.’”

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