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Louis Vuitton – Storehouse of Intellectual Property Rights


- Sneh Gada & Richa Chande


Introduction


With the pace at which the fashion industry is growing, it is no surprise that the number of cases about infringement of one’s Intellectual Property Rights (“IP Rights”) has increased manifold in the last few years. Such a rise in the infringement of IP Rights in the fashion industry is only going to escalate the growing concern about protecting IP Rights in the fashion industry. The fashion industry is one of the most important sectors, which involves clothes and high-end products such as shoes, bags, and many more. It requires a lot of creativity, effort, innovative ideas, capital investments, new inventions, designs, etc. to finally launch a product into the market. Hence, its protection has become a need of the hour. In this blog, the authors have concentrated on one of the most luxurious brands named Louis Vuitton (“LV”), its IP Rights, strategies to protect such rights, and further the legal actions taken by LV to protect itself against infringement of such IP Rights.


History of the Brand


Louis Vuitton Malletier is a French fashion house that is one of the most valuable and recognizable luxury goods brands in the world. The brand was awarded the world’s most valuable luxury brand for six consecutive years (2006-2012), leaving behind brands including but not limited to Dior, Gucci, Channel, Prada, etc. Louis Vuitton started its business as a luggage manufacturer in 1854. Later, in 1896, his son designed the interlocking L and V in a floral pattern, which became the brand’s renowned monogram logo. The monogram logo was designed to help them brand their firm and prevent infringement. Today, in the 21st Century, this monogram logo of LV has reached great heights and is recognized to become one of the most identifiable marks on the planet[1].


IPR holdings of Louis Vuitton


The brand Louis Vuitton is a huge piece of design combined with innovation, ideas, creativity, etc. The shapes, symbols, and logos associated with Louis Vuitton holds a great value which makes them one of the finest and most luxurious brands in the world. All these require great effort, invention, money, time, etc, and thus to prevent infringement of such IP Rights, Louis Vuitton has got many IP Rights for its work to secure these prevalent mental inventions in the fashion industry. As per the statistics available on Louis Vuitton’s Website, the company holds approximately 18,000 IP Rights all around the globe, which is handled by a team of over 250 lawyers and law enforcement officers having its head office in Paris and various other regional offices[2]. Some IP Rights of the brand include the ‘LV’ trademark helps differentiate it from other brands, designs printed on the products, and patented technologies and processes used by the brand in making its products are some of the IP creations that helps the brand build its identity as one of the finest and luxurious brands out there. The creativity, artistic mindset, and craftsmanship skills that the brand possesses are what make the product expensive and niche.


Strategies of Louis Vuitton


Louis Vuitton as a brand has achieved great value and prestige, making it one of the finest and most luxurious brands in the world. The rapid increase in the cases of counterfeiting had made it very important for the brand to preserve its creativity and hence various strategies are adopted by the brand to restrict the infringement of its IP Rights. Some of these include the ‘Zero Tolerance Policy to Counterfeiting’, which aims at adopting a sword strategy by attacking anyone trying to copy or infringe any of the rights, and the shield strategy by registering all possible IP creations to restrict the competitors from violating such rights. Another important step undertaken by Louis Vuitton is the ‘Contributory Culpability Theory’. The application of this strategy targeted middlemen who adopted counterfeiting techniques and thereby removed specific counterfeiting hotspots. Another strategy adopted by Louis Vuitton is the ‘Disclaimer’ on their website. Often at times, the employees or the middlemen working with a brand are involved in illegal activities to earn money. There exist various websites which sell counterfeited products at cheap prices. Thus, making the customers aware of the disclaimer on the website serves a very important purpose. Purchasing goods outside the official channels, there exists doubt in terms of the quality or authenticity of these items. This provision protects the brand’s name from being ruined by such counterfeited products.


Legal actions are taken by Louis Vuitton


According to the 2022 IP Youth Scoreboard, released by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”) in June 2022[3], intentional access to counterfeit products or pirated digital content has increased. Louis Vuitton has faced various counterfeiting and violation of its infringement since its inception. The luxury products manufactured by these brands generally fascinate people, but it is not everyone’s cup of tea to be able to afford these expensive products. Thus, people end up buying counterfeit products which are identical to the brand but are fake in their very nature. Louis Vuitton is considered to be one of the most aggressive brands when it comes to the battle against counterfeiting. As per Louis Vuitton’s Website, the brand had initiated over 38,000 anti-counterfeiting procedures worldwide (including criminal, civil and customs procedures), resulting in the breaking of criminal networks and easing the plight of workers working for illegal organizations. In Louis Vuitton Malletier vs. Futuretimes Technology India Private Limited & Ors[4], costs of INR. 20,00,000/- (Indian Rupees Twenty Lakh Only) were awarded in favor of Louis Vuitton as a relief and restrained the defendants from, in any manner, manufacturing, selling, offering for sale directly or indirectly any goods including face masks, etc.


Conclusion


In this fast-moving world, the pace at which IP Rights have evolved in the fashion industry is phenomenal. Building a brand, especially an internationally famous luxury brand like Louis Vuitton, requires a lot of money, passion, and zeal to be extraordinary. Louis Vuitton, as a brand has developed a strong brand image and a long-lasting legacy of being the finest luxury brand. From holding over 18,000 IP Rights to successfully preventing its infringement, Louis Vuitton as a brand has come a long way. Thus, it is right to say that Louis Vuitton is truly a storehouse of Intellectual Property Rights.


Sneh Gada & Richa Chande are third year students at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2015/06/25/as-louis-vuitton-knows-all-too-well-counterfeiting-is-a-costly-bargain/?sh=5c010aa460d3 [2] https://eu.louisvuitton.com/eng-e1/magazine/articles/brand-protection# [3] https://euipo.europa.eu/tunnel-web/secure/webdav/guest/document_library/observatory/documents/reports/IP_youth_scoreboard_study_2022/IP_youth_scoreboard_study_2022_en.pdf [4] https://storage.googleapis.com/theippress/2022/11/9d058675-louis_vuitton_vs_future_times_technology_india_pvt__ltd_.pdf

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