Louis Vuitton gets Brand-Jacked, Collateral Damage in Anti-Genocide Campaign

Left Image: An impoverished Darfur child is shown holding an LV-like purse, image sold as a T-shirt from artist, now being sued, see Hi-Res version.

Thanks to Søren Storm Hansen for bringing this to my attention.

It could have been your brand
It could have been Rolex, Lexus, Gucci, or even your brand, sadly for LV, it was theirs.

A 26 year old artist named Nadia Plesner has been sued by Louis Vuitton for brand jacking their famous purses in a anti-genocide campaign.

The artist was trying to make a point that the media cares more for Paris Hilton extravaganza’s more than the genocide in the nation of Darfur.

Nadia states her intentions for the grass roots campaign:

“My illustration Simple Living is an idea inspired by the medias constant cover of completely meaningless things.

My thought was: Since doing nothing but wearing designerbags and small ugly dogs appearantly is enough to get you on a magasine cover, maybe it is worth a try for people who actually deserves and needs attention.

When we’re presented with the same images in the media over and over again, we might start to believe that they’re important.

As I was reading the book ”Not on our watch” by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast this summer, I felt horrified by the fact that even with the genocide and other ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Paris Hilton was the one getting all the attention. Is it possible that show business have outruled common sense?

If you can’t beat them, join them. This is why I have chosen to mix the cruel reality with showbiz elements in my drawing.”


LV: “Cease and Desist”

Luxury brands certainly have teams of brand police within Marketing to ensure their products aren’t being misplaced or improperly positioned, and have taken action by first sending a cease and desist letter (notice they “applaud the efforts) PDF.

Nadia: “Free Speech”

Nadia then sent a return note, stating this was her ability to self-express and claimed the logo was not referring to LV in particular (PDF).

LV files lawsuit
The letter was not met well, and LV has now filled suit against Nadia, claiming damages of over $20,000 a day, each day the campaign is continued.

The Groundswell begins
Since then the Darfur has grown in awareness, having now been on Digg, a Facebook group formed, spread in the news, and hundreds of blogs pointing to her site.

LV has two a few options

Here’s my take, from what I can tell, Louis Vuitton (and the dog) have nothing to do with Darfur, and their brand is being dragged through the African mud. Their response is pretty standard and expected, to protect the image and brand that they’ve been working to build. I’m sympathetic to them getting brand jacked, as they’ve not done anything to occur this unwanted attention.

Option 1: Continue legal path: Continue this path and settle with Nadia, given the many lawyers they have access to and resources, they will likely win a copyright infringement for the design being on another paid product.

Option 2: Join the campaign: They could drop the suit, and work with the Save Dafur organization to help raise funds by doing events, creating a specific product, or help promote the cause. This too has it’s downsides, the brand will be brought into the human rights spotlight, and if they have any dirt in this arena (perhaps oversees manufacturing) they’ll be in turn scrutinized. Secondly, this would be a nod to activitists everywhere to brand jack major brands in order to get support –and funding, the cycle will continue.

Option 3: Redirect focus on issues: Submitted by John Bell. I enjoyed John’s option so much, that I’ve embedded it here on the post as an update. “What they could do is work with Nadia and other artists to host discussions about media focus. They could partner with a neutral party like my friends at ifocos.org to steward the conversation. Keep the discussion away from luxury brands (which is not Nadia’s point anyhow). LV can become part of teh solution without taking on the brunt of an issue they do not own.”

Option 4: Walk away: Submitted by Alison Byrne Fields: “Drop the suit. Walk away and wait for the dust to settle. This little hullabaloo will have no long term negative impact on their brand.”

I’m weighing both options here for LV, there’s really not a great way out of it for them. I believe they are collateral damage, having done no wrong to invoke this groundswell, yet this is a nod to what could easily happen to other brands.

I asked my Twitter community to voice their opinion, on the topic, here’s what was said in public

ronbailey: – why not just donate a few bucks to the cause in exchange for her NOT using LV products in her campaign?

Dan Lewis: legalities aside, I’d be mighty upset if my name were wrongly associated with genocide. the artist is morally wrong here, no doubt

Alberto Nardelli: besides LV point being morally disturbing, IP case doesn’t stand: would be like campbells suing warhol

Kim Pearson: I’m a former PR person, not a lawyer, but I’d argue that LV is doing itself more harm by its response, not protecting its brand.

Ed Saipetch: ironically in the same vain, I heard the (RED) campaign benefits retailers and product producers much much more than the AIDS fight

Rainne: I say not, b/c the artist did not use the vuitton pattern, she simply invoked its similarity.

mlogan: They turned this into a big story and managed to put themselves on the wrong side of a humanitarian crisis. Smooth

bethdunn: it’s another case of a company doing more harm than good to their brand by trying to halt something they can’t control

ronbailey: how has LV been harmed by Nadia’s campaign? – She was poking fun at celebrity culture in general, not LV in particular

ronbailey: They could have easily turned a blind eye to the whole episode.

Ok, you weigh in, If you were the CMO, what should LV do?

84 Replies to “Louis Vuitton gets Brand-Jacked, Collateral Damage in Anti-Genocide Campaign”

  1. LV shouldn’t over-react to this. it’s clearly a bigger social issue that’s being discussed here and not about the brand per se. as you mentioned in your tweet, it could happen to any other brand.

    it’s a statement from the artist. let’s respect that and LV should come in from a social perspective.

  2. Somewhere in the world, we do work for LV. I do not touch the brand but just want to be as transparent as possible.

    I am not sure I see the wisdom on the two paths you suggest. Suing the artist might be “right” but it sets up the classic davey and goliath conflict which is doubly troubling as the artist’s current beef isn’t with LV per se.

    If Nadia’s point is that the media is dropping the ball by covering celebrities more than troubling issues like famine in Africa, then perhaps that is common ground for LV and Nadia. I do not think that LV jumping on the Darfur bandwagon to ‘cleanse” itself makes any sense unless that is an organically important issue for them.

    What they could do is work with Nadia and other artists to host discussions about media focus. They could partner with a neutral party like my friends at ifocos.org to steward the conversation. Keep the discussion away from luxury brands (which is not Nadia’s point anyhow). LV can become part of teh solution without taking on the brunt of an issue they do not own.

    Ultimately, the short term impulse to “protect” the brand using the law may not make sense in this new world. I think the LV brand can withstand the discussion about how media is not what it once was or what it could be.

  3. John Bell

    Great advice. For those that don’t know John, he’s at Ogilvy Interactive, and clearly struts his PR wisdom here. I’ve updated the post crediting John here.

    John, if they are your client, I suggest you raise this option to them quickly.

  4. You can’t unring that bell, I’m afraid.

    LV needs to take the high ground and get engaged in the issue, not try and cram it back into a box by way of a C&D.

    They should ask: in what way is this damaging to our brand? (because it certainly is) And work to counter that with new activity:

    Damage: LV is associated with the genocide in Darfur.
    Response: Make that association a positive one, as a force for good. Become known as the brand that does the most to stop the genocide. Do whatever can be done quickly to turn this around: announce today that tomorrow all proceeds from LV bags will go to an appropriate charity, for instance.

    Damage: LV is associated with the irresponsible media and celebrity culture.
    Response: See John Bell, above.

    Sadly, now there’s more, as a result of the company’s own actions.

    Damage: LV is anti-artist, anti-free speech, litigious.
    Response: Run a campaign that asks artists to create new designs and patterns for LV bags, choose several, make them into limited editions, and contribute a portion of the proceeds to artist scholarships — preferably new ones, branded something like “The LV Young/Emerging Artist Scholarship” at one or more prestigious schools of art and design.

    Honestly, it makes me crazy when brands do this sort of thing. Here they have an opportunity: suddenly this Sunday morning hundreds/thousands of people who hadn’t given their brand a second thought are talking and typing and wondering how to spell “Vuitton,” and all they can say is “Stop talking about us?”

    This is exactly the moment when they need to use the momentum to advance their brand, not cause further damage.

    They can’t cram the genie back into the bottle, but they might still get three wishes, if they try really hard.

  5. Great set of options here Beth, well thought out. I doubt they have the resources to invest in all of those campaigns, but if you had one recommendation for them, which would it be?

  6. The measure of a crisis badly handled is when the amount of coverage steadily increases, and this is a classic example. If they’d done nothing it wouldn’t have been a story, coverage wouldn’t have escalated and their brand wouldn’t be the object of hostility by people like me who find their attitude abhorrent.
    Clearly then need to engage with the artist, not sue her.

  7. Jeremiah, I would recommend the first option, or some version of it, because that attacks the two most pressing problems here: that there is a real evil in Darfur that needs to be addressed, and that LV is currently and increasingly on the wrong side of the issue in the public’s perception.

    They can’t stop the association at this point: for a while at least, people will think “LV = Darfur” — all they can do is turn that into “LV = Cares About Darfur.”

  8. Good points KD, as I mentioned in the post, this was clearly a knee jerk reaction from LV police, I’m not surprised by their response.

    Beth, good points, this could be profitable for LV if they follow your recommendation –and enhance their brand.

  9. They should have let it be in the first place and now they should let it be and walk away.

    With all due respect to John, just as they have no business touching the Darfur issue (beyond the fact that the company is run by humans who should have feelings about atrocities that are being committed against other humans), they have no business hosting a conversation about media focus.

    In fact, as Jeremiah points out about human rights, to suggest their hands are clean on the issue of media focus is nonsense. They, like other “lifestyle” brands, rely on the popularity of media darlings like Paris Hilton to sell their products. They know who the paparazzi follow and they ensure that they have their brand in their hands when they are captured on film. They benefit from the media’s focus.

    Option 4: Drop the suit. Walk away and wait for the dust to settle. This little hullabaloo will have no long term negative impact on their brand.

  10. They’ll never do Option 2 since it doesn’t fit with their brand image. Option 3 is much less likely since, again, that’s not what they do. My guess is that they’ll stick with Option 1 but will settle for some nominal amount in the end (assuming, of course, that Nadia agrees to stop selling the shirt and poster).

    The funny thing is, LV actually started by handling this the right way: by trying to engage the artist in an open, polite manner (particularly by employing the one-artist-to-another approach). I would argue that, had Nadia’s reply not essentially been “I will continue to infringe on your copyright because I believe the Darfur issue is bigger than intellectual property law”, things would have gone a lot better.

    Of course LV could have tried other things before suing her (too late for that now) but, imagine for a moment, that instead of an LV bag the child was holding an iPod-like device with a loosely-masked Apple logo on it. What do you think would Apple have done? Wouldn’t it have come down harder than LV? And what would everyone’s response to that have been?

  11. LV overrated, big time. The hole they are digging for themselves is growing wider and deeper. Unless they swallow their pride and stop now, they will win in court, and lose in the marketplace.

  12. How about the dog? Who is protecting the chihuahua brand?

    LV is tremendously profitable (have u seen the prices lately, plus they jack the price 15% each year). They have the resources to help and should. If they have any unsavory manufacturing practices, I say it’s great incentive to get that fixed too. I do like Beth Dunn’s suggestion of hosting a young artist scholarship etc. Turn a negative into a positive. That would be a marketing coup.

  13. Ultimately, LV’s best position is to relax and walk away. I agree that my third option is just not likely to be part of their brand DNA. They are not an activist brand over any issue. That’s just not who they are.

    ABF’s point that they benefit from media coverage of their celebrity customers is a good one. Somewhat disingenous for them to challenge the PR that helps their business roll along.

    They could drop the suit today and probably recover quite nicely.

  14. Brands are often soooo keen to ‘protect’ their brand and intellectual property they actually hurt it.

    They could have left this and no one would have been the wiser. The campaign is not directed at them, and while the bag bares a resemblance to LV, the logo and exact pattern aren’t used. I don’t see where their brand is being damaged or abused.

    Or they could have gotten involved with the campaign. Obviously there are the risks you mentioned (it is not inconceivable they have a dodgy past which could make them look hypocritical and backfire badly).

  15. Luxury brands do not have the luxury of remaining silent. They are the expressiveness of the well-heeled, for whom verbalizing, “I’m richer than you.” is a sign of a lack of refinement. So LV is *required* to publicly react in this case.

    Their best option would be to sponsor a forum in which the global community can participate and engage with the local Darfur community and any and all who are engaged in the atrocities or can act to prevent it; a forum which (it is hoped) effects a change, but in which, at the least, participants feel as if they’re doing something. After all, a brand which symbolizes wealth *and* power is able to wield quite a bit of both itself.

  16. I do like the ideas being presented here but I’m afraid that none of these are in Louis Vuitton’s wheelhouse.

    Activists do this kind of thing all the time; it’s just that it’s new to the twittersphere and as a result, it’s going to get more play in the short term.

    As a brand, you have to be careful about your image. I think luxury brands are going to go after people like Nadia for three reasons:

    1. People have short attention spans. While Darfur is certainly a hot button today, it has taken only a couple of years for most people to forget the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the enormous earthquake that levelled Bam, or when Hurricane Beta devastated Honduras. Besides, the people that joined Nadia’s Facebook page were probably not core Louis Vuitton customers.

    2. It’s critical to establish precedent. In every case, Louis Vuitton is providing the opportunity to cease and desist quietly. Most of the time people avoid litigation. But when someone chooses to take a stand, that’s when Louis Vuitton truly swings into action. Every Louis Vuitton victory – whether with a knockoff merchant, a Canal Street landlord, or giants like Google – clearly establishes what is fair and what is not fair.

    3. Don’t invite future extortion. From my perspective, to walk away is to invite more sophisticated approaches to brandjacking. For example, the music industry mostly ignored illegal copying for years. It was only when there was a critical mass of illegal copies it paved the way for Napster and Kazaa. When I hear some of the suggestions – like creating events or trying to educate people – it sounds like a blueprint for extorting free marketing funds. And if there are enough people doing that — crowdsourcing + extortion = bad news.

    When I looked at past history, it’s interesting to note that VW went after two artists in 2005 and they haven’t been damaged for the experience.

    http://tinyurl.com/5hlpzq

  17. I like option 3. While LV is “collateral damage” in some ways, inothers they are not. Consider:

    1) media attention to fashionistas like Paris Hilton make a direct and substantial contribution to the bottom line profits of fashion houses. so they are complicit in and beneficiaries of media imbalance.

    2) invoking “similar to LV” as an metaphor for high fashion is in a way acknowledgment of the strength of their brand. metaphor in art is a valid shortcut. the artist is not attempting to blame LV for the genocide.

    3) embracing the relative importance of the competing issues (embracing the fight against genocide vs. protecting a luxury goods brand) would show a maturity and corporate citizenship that would stand out in their industry. standing out in your industry is almost always “good press”

    4) doing the unexpected is refreshing and ergo more effective in media relations as the landscape changes. what they have done actually *makes* them look even more apathetic to/obliquely implicated in the wrong that is genocide.

  18. 1) They should license the pattern depicted on the bag in the illustration from Nadia. Nadia agrees that a portion of license fees go to a worthy cause vetted by Prendergast.

    2) Using the design, LV introduces a new bag very similar to the one in the illustration. ALL proceeds from the sale of the “Save Darfur” bag go to Darfur trusted charities.

    3) Ask Paris Hilton to do a *free* appearance with the artist and with LV at a benefit held the week before the Olympics. (China invests heavily in the Sudan, hence the connection). This might help rehabilitate her image as well.

    4) Give free bags to Olympic athletes as a form of silent protest. If they bring them to China they will be seen about town and surely result in questions.

    5) Release the pattern into the wild with “sponsored by LV” as a creative commons pattern for others to use. Ask but don’t require they donate to a related charity.

    Just thinking that might be a bit better at actually achieving the goal – raising awareness and helping the children in Darfur. And it gives both LV and Paris Hilton and out to help their own images.

  19. I think one of the issues not being discussed is that the attorneys that work at these companies are essentially on auto-pilot and operate in a vacuum without any guidance from the company’s vision/mission. I’ve certainly witnessed this myself. Going into management meetings, I would often be told by general counsel what we should or shouldn’t be doing. More often than not, I would tell him that I appreciated his legal advice but we were going to do things in accordance to our raison d’etre and that the legal tail was not going to wag the dog. Make no mistake, this LV C&D wasn’t issued by LV PR or Marketing, it was issued by legal counsel, most likely without any consent/discussion with management about the consequences (any sensible PR/Marcom person would have seen the backlash). My point? Lawyers need to start operating within the strategic framework of a company’s mores and purpose, not independent of them. As the truism goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

  20. I think LV has over reacted. What Nadia did isn’t going to have an iota of an impact on the brand. LV’s response amounts to making a mountain out of a molehill. But since it has already filed the suit, backing out isn’t going to put them in good light. Frankly, letting it die down isn’t something a 500lb gorilla like LVMH is able to do, though it should have done so. But really, fake LV totes (esp in the Far East) are a far bigger threat to the brand than this. I think it now runs the risk of a backlash as a result of its decision.

  21. Although I’m no fan of the C&D approach, given the current trademark law, it is an automatic step one whenever a company sees anything that infringes on a trademark. They don’t need to consult marketing. They have to react.

    I don’t know much about LV but I doubt they are much of an activist brand, or care to be. If they continue with the lawsuit it would result in little damage to their brand.

    LV can afford to react quickly and decisively as a niche, powerful brand that wants to put this behind them. For them, any effort to get involved will just prolong the issue.

    This is a classic case where the legal team trumps the marketing team. It’s not the best outcome for all involved but the artist used that brand for a reason.

  22. I think LV should have left this alone. I personally had no idea the bag was anything special and I suspect many people felt the same way. If you’re not a buyer of this kind of bag why would you know or care about the bag being carried. This issue has gone from being something 500 people knew and cared about to a big issue discussed across the internet.

    The other problem for LV is the lure of that brand is in what you don’t know about it. Somehow I don’t think the magic of the brand is in the wonderful hand stitching and quality delivered by people who have been doing it for a lifetime in some obscure monastery in the Italian hills. I suspect the reality is somewhat different and these bags are wacked out in a factory between the order of bags for Walmart and JC Penny. The more people know about LV the less alluring the brand.

  23. It is a David-Goliath situation, no matter how much LV is right here, they are going to loose in the public opinion buttle. The publics are always on the side of the “weakest”, no matter if they are right or wrong: just remember the Shell Brentspar crisis. Remove the law suite, engage in the dialogue with the other party and wait out until the end of media storm. LV has done nothing wrong, so they shouln’t justify themselves. It gives the opposite impression.

  24. When we’re presented with the same images in the media over and over again, we might start to believe that they’re important.

    *Sigh*, maybe this is why I never watch the news.

    The LV bag is truly distinguishable, the art is not a meaningful if it’s just some bag (just as much as the type of pooch is meaningful). The artist could easily have put a pair of Air Jordan’s on the kids feet (except that athletes are a little more difficult to touch than rich heiresses).

    From an artistic standpoint, she did what we expect artists to do drive. She drove emotion and impact with the work she created. The name on the hand-bag had to be someone’s, it had to be striking.

    Turns out that LV was the target of the day. Normally I like the non-aggressive solutions, I like companies that have the ability to accept fault. But this isn’t about fault, this isn’t a criticism about LV, it’s a criticism about culture and LV is just an “accessory” (so to speak).

    But LV is a luxury brand, they know that the hand-bags they sell are very high-priced. Their currency is “image” and this is bad “imagery”. LV is not going to bring in the suits b/c they’re heartless bastards; they’re taking legal action b/c they were unfairly pulled in to being an accessory to activism.

    If people started tying the Forrester logo to images about the descent of the Tech Industry, something just as specious as the above, Forrester would be equally annoyed.

  25. Maybe I’m giving people too much credit, but the artist doesn’t actually use LV’s mark, and even if she did, I still believe her larger point – about the media and our appetite for sensationalist trivia – would come through. People are savvy enough to understand that the handbag is supposed to represent luxury brands in general.

  26. “Brand-Jacked”> Please.

    It’s parody. The Supreme Court has upheld the use of copyrighted material in art as Parody, as Sec. 107 allows. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (1994)

  27. LV is no different from other brands and corporates. We now live in a time where brand owners are expected to be globally-minded and demonstrate socially supportive behaviours. Their ‘cease & desist’ response is predictable from an old world brand with little connection outside their glossy niche. I would applaud them for either merely issuing a slap and stop request, followed by some form of credible acknowledgement that the world recognises the Darfur tragedy. Better still, they would join with the artist and actually devote whatever money that would be sucked into a legal battle into publicising the Darfur issue.

  28. in an ideal world this would have been settled privately. I think LV underestimated the possibility of this story becoming big. I still believe it is not big enough to hurt LV business and I doubt it ever will be.

    however I don’t agree that LV could use that as an opportunity to take a stance on Darfur and for two reasons. one, that would be very amateurish. LV has never been involved in similar causes, they are just sponsors of the arts and of sport events. They also are an eco-conscious company, and that’s it. now to be involved in a cause like darfur would require to reinvent themselves as activists. That would have profund image implications. I fail to see how this could benefit to the brand.
    two, that would mean that an established company has to change their image strategy because someone is using unauthorized copyrighted material. why should LV accept that?

    For the latter reason LV cannot hardly ignore the issue. LV has to fend off each and every attack against their brand. Now that the dispute is public, they just can’t back off.

    So that leaves us with 2 options. One, they go to court. That would be a lose/lose situation. they have a 99.9% chance to win the case but then what. or, they could settle that out of court. the artist, especially, has every interest in pursuing that option. everyone involved would gain a little something out of that.

    on closing comments, I still think LV’s image is more damaged by its very unvoluntary association with Paris Hilton and the likes, than by this affair.

  29. Just wanted to drop this into the brand hijacking thread.

    Glade did not produce this content but it still makes people laugh. Good or bad for the brand? I think no harm, no foul when it comes to this stuff.

    Warning: Involves bathroom humor.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coYQGPW-Uyw

  30. I would turn a blind eye if I were LV. But, how’s about the opposite situation? A bar owner in my fair city (Atlanta) made a T-Shirt that says Obama 08, with a picture of Curious George on it. I won’t be voting for Obama, but think the publishing company that owns the rights to the image should go after that guy. It would be nice if they sued him out of business.

  31. Isn’t one part of “fair use” parody or satire?

    I ask because I suspect in a fair court LV would lose.

  32. I honestly think the artist is wrong here, he should have not used that system to gain attention since LV is not responsible for the problem of genocide. OK, they are not spending money on the genocide problem, but like thousands of other companies that earn a lot of money every year. Of course LV should NOT say this, we have to say it loud for the people to get the point. There must be a limit for this battle against luxury companies, it’s too easy to exploit this.
    NOW, what should LV do?. If the story wasn’t that famous, keep silence about it.
    All the companies must predict what kind of public relations crisis they can get involved in, and think (before the problem has cropped up) what they should do. Maybe they have to support social responsibility actions in order to be able to SAY in the future that they do it, in case the problem appeared.

  33. Hmm, so if LV was to join the campaign, this “would be a nod to activitists everywhere to brand jack major brands in order to get support –and funding, the cycle will continue”? Would that be such a bad thing? Would it kill corporates such as LV to grow a social conscience, or is CSR just not quite luxe enough for their target market?

    A quick act of brushing-under-the-rug will do more damage to the brand image of LV than an act of positively associating themselves as supporters of the fight against misdirected media scrutiny. With the world becoming increasingly smaller, crises such as that faced by Darfur need to be acknowledged before we all end up portrayed as emaciated figures on t-shirts. From a marketing perspective, this has all the makings of a striking campaign. In reaction to counterfeiting, LV constructed shoots and promotions in which their luxury products were displayed against a backdrop of corrugated iron and cardboard, the handbags piled up as if in the back alley of a seedy counterfeiting district. Consumers are savvy enough not to associate LV with the evils of piracy, why should the same not apply here? The CMO should align with luxury brands that target similiar markets or use similiar strategies and together they should embrace a massive campaign that highlights the distorted focus of the media and redirects it onto the crisis in Darfur. As a high fashion brand, LV needs to become aware that social conscience is the new “it” thing,use that to its advantage and maybe do some good in the process. Nadia Piesner should garb her next Darfur victim in a fetching Burberry scarf.

  34. ” Option 2: … This too has it’s downsides, the brand will be brought into the human rights spotlight, and if they have any dirt in this arena (perhaps oversees manufacturing) they’ll be in turn scrutinized. ”

    – and that is bad… why, exactly? C’mon, if they have that kind of dirt they _should_ be scrutinized. Of course. Naturally. That goes without saying.

  35. Louis Vuitton gets Brand-Jacked, Collateral Damage in Anti-Genocide Campaign This entry was written by Brad Bell, posted on May 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm, filed under Charity Marketing. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Test Your Donation Landing Pages

  36. A brother and sister who operated a retail store on the Santee Alley bargain strip in the Fashion District of Downtown say they were falsely accused of dealing in counterfeit merchandise and forced out of business by “malicious prosecution” pressed by representative of the Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior fashion labels.

    George and Marijeanne Antounian recently filed a lawsuit against the two Paris, France-based
    luxury brand giants and their attorneys. The Antounians claim that a prior suit that the companies filed against them was itself unlawful.

    A federal court eventally dismissed the lawsuit against the Antounians and awarded them approximately $70,000 in lawyer’s fees. That covered about half of what they spent on legal representation in fighting the case, according to a lawyer representing them in their suit against the luxury brands.

    The Antounians are seeking unspecified damages from the companies in a malicious prosecution suit alleging that representatives of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, and their respective lawyers, knew that allegations of copyright and trademark infringement against them were not true but nevertheless continued with the litigation.

    The cost of the defending against the charges eventually forced the Antounian’s to close their Bijou Palace shop on the 1100 block of Santee Alley, according to the couple, who claim they were also forced to liquidate their inventory, a process that typically involves selling off merchandise at very low prices.

    The Antounian’s malicious prosecution lawsuit claims that representatives of the two giant luxury labels hired a private investigation company called Investigative Consultants in 2005 to determine whether stores on Santee Alley were selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior wallets, purses, and other goods. An investigation of nearly two years led to the firm to wrongfully conclude that the Antounians had sold fake Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior products, according to the lawsuit. The Antounians claim that a video used in the investigation showed such counterfeit transactions occurring at adjacent stores and on the pathway of Santee Alley itself, but not at Bijou Palace.

    “The Antounians’ store sold only costume jewelry and was not in the business of selling purses and wallets,” said Sean Macias, managing partner of Macias Counsel, Inc. in Glendale, and the lead attorney representing the Antounians.

    William Salle, co-counsel for the Antounians, said that a member of the investigation team, Arianna Ortiz, admitted she provided false testimony in identifying Bijou Palace as one of the stores selling knockoff products.

    “Ortiz alerted Kris Buckner, president of Investigative Consultants, and lead counsel Janine Garguilo for Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, of the errors in the investigation reports months before trial, but legal action still proceeded against the Antounians,” according to Salle.

    The Antouians lawsuit also alleges that during a trial on accusations against them, in July 2007, Buckner testified that he never saw handbags, wallets, or sunglasses—or any Louis Vuitton or Christian Dior items—for sale at Bijou Palace.

    “These were the same items that the Antounians and Bijou Palace were to have allegedly sold,” said Salle.

    Macias said that efforts to combat counterfeiting of merchandise are understandable, but contended that his clients were wrongly caught up in the efforts.

    “Maybe they wanted to send a message to would-be counterfeiters that they mean business,” Macias said. “Instead, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior succeeded only in destroying an innocent small business.”

    Representatives of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior could not be reached for comment, as of presstime
    (Antounians v. Louis Vuitton et al, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BC396340).

  37. You can't unring that bell, I'm afraid.

    LV needs to take the high ground and get engaged in the issue, not try and cram it back into a box by way of a C&D.

    They should ask: in what way is this damaging to our brand? (because it certainly is) And work to counter that with new activity:

    Damage: LV is associated with the genocide in Darfur.
    Response: Make that association a positive one, as a force for good. Become known as the brand that does the most to stop the genocide. Do whatever can be done quickly to turn this around: announce today that tomorrow all proceeds from LV bags will go to an appropriate charity, for instance.

    Damage: LV is associated with the irresponsible media and celebrity culture.
    Response: See John Bell, above.

    Sadly, now there's more, as a result of the company's own actions.

    Damage: LV is anti-artist, anti-free speech, litigious.
    Response: Run a campaign that asks artists to create new designs and patterns for LV bags, choose several, make them into limited editions, and contribute a portion of the proceeds to artist scholarships — preferably new ones, branded something like “The LV Young/Emerging Artist Scholarship” at one or more prestigious schools of art and design.

    Honestly, it makes me crazy when brands do this sort of thing. Here they have an opportunity: suddenly this Sunday morning hundreds/thousands of people who hadn't given their brand a second thought are talking and typing and wondering how to spell “Vuitton,” and all they can say is “Stop talking about us?”

    This is exactly the moment when they need to use the momentum to advance their brand, not cause further damage.

    They can't cram the genie back into the bottle, but they might still get three wishes, if they try really hard.

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  39. Your article is very informative. I agree with all the points that you written here. I must say that the article is written clearly and direct to the point. It also express your thoughts about the issue. Hope you write more articles like this in your blog.

  40. Today, an article was published regading the fact that a Dutch court has sentenced Nadia tp pay 200000 euros to LV. And they still want more.

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