Trademark Parody and Copyright Fair Use

The Second Circuit affirmed a district court ruling granting summary judgment to My Other Bag, Inc., owner of MY OTHER BAG, against Louis Vuitton.  My Other Bag are handbags that on one side show pictures of famous handbags, such as those of Louis Vuitton, and on the other side had the words “My Other Bag”.  Louis Vuitton had sued My Other Bag, Inc. for trademark infringement, dilution by blurring, and copyright infringement.

The lower court held that My Other Bag’s use was parody stating “MOB’s use of Louis Vuitton’s marks in service of what is an obvious attempt at humor is not likely to cause confusion or the blurring of the distinctiveness of Louis Vuitton’s marks; if anything, it is likely only to enforce and enhance the distinctiveness and notoriety of the famous brand”.  The court also rejected the copyright claim on the basis of fair use.

The Second Circuit affirmed that the MOB marks were parodies.  The higher court stated “a parody must convey two simultaneous – and contradictory – messages that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody.”  The court distinguished this case from other cases, such as STARBUCKS v. CHARBUCKS, where CHARBUCKS was used to identify a type of coffee that would compete with STARBUCKS at the same level and quality.

With respect to the copyright claim, the court held that MOB was a transformative and non-infringing use as the bags were a “new expression and message.”

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