'Hangover' Alan's Lewis Vuitton is OK: Luxury Vuitton Brand loses suit against Warner Bros.
By Contributing Editor, Elspeth Crawford
"It adds to the image of Alan as a socially inept and comically misinformed character, " said the district court judge in the case dismissal brought by the luxury label last week. Zach Galifianakis, purporting a hysterical persona, donned a knock-off version of the classic 'LV' monogrammed print, warning another character to be "careful... that's a 'Lewis' Vuitton" in Warner Brothers 'The Hangover: Part II'.
According to Judge Andrew Carter, the "remark also comes across as funny because he mispronounces the French 'Louis' like the English 'Lewis,' and ironic because he cannot correctly pronounce the brand name of one of his expensive possessions." Additionally, Galifianakis’ character also pronounces Thailand as “Thigh-land”.
The bag in question was actually manufactured by the Chinese American company Diophy, which distributes counterfeit designer goods. However, the judge maintained that the audience would hardly notice whether the bag was genuine or not, as it was not a focal point in the picture screened for less than 30 seconds.
The crude sequel went on to become the highest-grossing rated 'R' comedy ever, netting $580 million at the time the complaint was brought.
Now, the shocking part of this decision is not the fact that the judge felt it was fine for Warner Brothers to allude to the designer incorrectly; mockery and satire are typically always excluded from copyright infringement and are protected by fair use. The judge ruled that Warner Brothers’ use of the recognizable trademark monogram was protected under First Amendment, since it was used in fun.
Rather, the case's bewildering aspect is that Warner Brothers was let off the hook for blatantly purchasing, using, and displaying an admittedly fake designer handbag. Considering the federal movement against (or so everyone thought) counterfeit knock-off goods, it seems odd that Warner Brothers was not punished for using a fake, and subsequently making it very public that they did so. This case definitely sends a confusing message about activity that is considered criminal.
It's likely that the French fashion house, which is owned by the 4th richest family in the world according to Forbes, did not actually suffer any harm or damages from the satirical 'misrepresentation' - but who can blame them for wanting to collect royalties on $580 million.