Louis Vuitton’s bag of stupidity

5 May

[by Todd] Seriously, there are some folks at Louis Vuitton that need to be unemployed.

ShirtLast fall Danish artist Nadia Plesner started selling the t-shirt shown here on her site to raise money for victims of genocide in Darfur. She calls it a Simple Living t-shirt. And offers this explanation:

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 designer bags and small ugly dogs apparently is enough to get you on a magazine cover, maybe it is worth a try for people who actually deserves and needs attention.

Perhaps not the most pointed of commentaries, but the shirt makes a nice statement about pop culture and desperation of Darfur’s victims. The shirt existed in relative obscurity for five months, that is until the folks at Louis Vuitton got stupid.

In February, the Intellectual Property Director decided this was the perfect time to flex some muscle and throw down a cease and desist letter, complete with patronizing comments. (Here’s a PDF of the letter.)

“Although we applaud your efforts to raise awareness and funds to help Darfur, a most worthy cause, we cannot help noticing that the design of the Simple Living Products includes the reproduction of a bag infringing on Louis Vuitton’s Intellectual Property Rights, in particular the Louis Vuitton Monogram Multicolore Trademark to which it is confusingly similar. We are surprised of such a promotion of a counterfeit bag.”

“As an artist yourself, we hope that you regognize the need to respect other artists’ rights and Louis Vuitton’s Intellectual Property Rights which include the Louis Vuitton Monogram Multicolore trademark.”

What pray tell could have possibly led anyone, with any modicum of authority, to think this was a good idea? How did they think for one moment that sending a threat would play out well for them? To her credit, the artist wrote back and tried to give them a graceful way out, pointing out that the bag was a generic reference to all such accessories. (Here’s her response.)

"However, I must inform You, that the bag in my drawing is inspired by – and refers to – designers bags in general – not a Louis Vuitton bag. If you take a closer look, you will also notice, that the pattern in my drawing is not the pattern which is used in the design of a Loius Vuitton bag. The name Louis Vuitton is in no way mentioned or referred to, neither in my drawing, nor in the campaign as such.”

Correction, the company’s name wasn’t mentioned, until now. To add insult to stupidity the designer brand, which has invested millions to cultivate its image, is pissing it away by now filing suit against the artist. Go ahead and set a Google News filter on this one, and watch for it on the network morning shows.

And of course the letters and lawsuit have helped the artist’s cause. I asked her by email if sales were up. I got a response in 20 minutes.

Yes, all the writing about the story has definitely helped the sales! My lawyer has advised me not to give any numbers just yet, but as soon as I can, I will let you know.

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the design licensed and on sale in a civic-minded shop near you soon. Which means others will follow suit, and soon Louis Vuitton will need a pad of C&D letters to keep up with demand.

Now that’s brand stewardship.

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