Ladies, Lipstick & Litigation: Merry Parody

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Everyone can enjoy a clever parody of well-known brands and products, but when does it become a trademark infringement? In the fourth (and festive) episode of Ladies, Lipstick & Litigation, Jeunesse Rutledge and Heidi Thole wrap up 2020 examining three parody cases involving two famous brands: Louis Vuitton and Jack Daniels. First, Jeunesse discusses the results from Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. vs. Haute Diggity Dog. In this case, the high-end fashion brand brought a lawsuit against a company producing "Chewy Vuitton" dog toys. Next, Heidi unwraps Louis Vuitton's lawsuit against My Other Bag, a California-based company that was selling tote bags parodying popular designer handbags. Finally, Jeunesse explains the recent VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel's Properties, Inc. lawsuit. In this suit, VIP Products was seeking a declaration that its "Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker" did not infringe upon the popular whiskey manufacturer's trademark rights.

While parody is more commonly associated with copyrights under the statutory "fair use" doctrine, there have been plenty of case law examples for parody under trademark laws. A trademark parody must convey a contradictory message: that it is the original, but also is not the original and is in fact a parody. If a parody is only successful in conveying the first part of that message, the parodist opens itself up to legal action from the copyright owner. Successful parodies always rely on a noticeable difference from the original mark to produce a desired result or reaction.

If you have questions related to parodies of your products, or if your parody is vulnerable to a lawsuit, please contact Jeunesse Rutledge, Heidi Thole or your Reinhart attorney.


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