Louis Vuitton loses dog chew-toy case -- again

November 19, 2007: 10:07 AM ET

Last week, in a case that I -- if few others -- have been following with rapt attention, a federal appeals court unanimously affirmed on appeal a trial court ruling throwing out Louis Vuitton Malletier's trademark infringement suit against a "Chewy Vuiton" plush toy manufactured by Haute Diggity Dog. (For earlier post on the case, see here.)

Louis Vuitton, which is a unit of LVMH (LVM), brought the case to enjoin sale of a small polyester chew-toy, shaped roughly like a handbag, that bears a monogram that parodies the French luxury goods retailer's famous "monogram canvas mark." The Chewy Vuiton toys are decorated with geometric doo-dads that mimic Louis Vuitton's four-pointed-star designs, and feature an interlocking CV logo in place of the famous interlocking LV logo. Nevertheless, the court found that consumers were unlikely to think that the inexpensive dog toys, which are sold in pet shops or online, were made by the French luxury house, which sells its monogrammed handbags (for between $995 and $4,500) only from licensed Louis Vuitton stores or toney department stores boutiques.

"The furry little 'Chewy Vuiton' imitation, as something to be chewed by a dog, pokes fun at the elegance and expensiveness of a LOUIS VUITTON handbag, which must not be chewed by a dog," wrote Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer. His 24-page ruling is available here.

Like the trial judge below, the court cited as authority a landmark (in my book, at least) 2002 precedent in which a Manhattan federal judge rebuffed Tommy Hilfiger's trademark suit against a novelty "pet perfume" called "Timmy Holedigger."

The court also rejected Louis Vuitton's claim that the toy might constitute "trademark dilution," blurring, or tarnishment -- slightly murkier legal concepts. The luxury house had based these challenges in part on alleged concerns that the toy might cause certain dogs to choke, leading distraught owners to think less of Louis Vuitton as a result. "There is no record support, however, that any dog has choked on a pet chew toy, such as a 'Chewy Vuiton' toy," wrote Judge Niemeyer, "or that there is any basis from which to conclude that a dog would likely choke on such a toy."

Haute Diggity Dog, which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, also makes parody chew toys called Chewnel No. 5 (Chanel No. 5), Furcedes (Mercedes), Jimmy Chew (Jimmy Choo), Dog Perignonn (Dom Perignon), Sniffany & Co. (Tiffany & Co.), and Dogior (Dior).

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