Tag Archives: trademarks

“Careful, That Is A Louis Vuitton”: Trademark Use and Misuse in Movies and TV

As Copyright Chair of the Cardozo IP Law Society, I am tasked with organizing one event per semester. Last semester I invited New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann to sit down with me to discuss the Google Books settlement, Hathi Trust lawsuit, and the war over orphan works. This semester I thought I’d try my hand at a panel.

The panel actually started off as Nadia’s, the IP Law Society’s Entertainment Chair and my co-chair. She originally wanted to call it “How To Make A Movie,” but on the advice of Professor David Morrison (who ended up being our moderator), we decided to narrow the scope of the panel. Nadia said she was interested in product placement, so I suggested the panel revolve around trademark use in movies and mentioned an interesting lawsuit I had read about over a fake Louis Vuitton in the Hangover II. And so our panel was born.

Fast forward to March 8, when three attorneys who graciously agreed to participate on the panel convened at Cardozo Law School to discuss trademark law, brand protection, and Zach Galifianakis.

The Panel: Morrison, Lalla, Beer, and Forgione

Vejay Lalla, Partner at Davis & Gilbert, spoke first on product placement. He started with this great product placement in TV montage and discussed the different ways that products can find their way onto the big and small screens. To help illustrate the different types of deals, he showed several examples of ads and placements his law firm had been involved with. Some filmmakers, like Michael Bay, prefer that products be visible in their movies because “[t]here are products in everything in everyday life” and “[i]t’s not real life” when the logos are missing. Lalla noted that although Apple says that it doesn’t pay for placements, Apple products somehow found their way into over 40% of number one films in the US in 2011 and 50% of the number one films so far in 2012.

The second and third panelists discussed issues directly related to the lawsuit Louis Vuitton filed against the makers of the Hangover II, Warner Brothers Entertainment. Louis Vuitton’s main complaint is that in the movie, after Ed Helms picks up Zach Galifianakis’ bag, Galifianakis warns, ”Careful, that is… that is a Louis Vuitton,” incorrectly pronouncing the “s.” Because the bag was not a genuine Louis Vuitton, but a counterfeit, Louis Vuitton asserted claims of false designation of origin, unfair competition, and dilution.

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