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NY Judge Has Some Fun with Louis Vuitton in 'Hangover' Opinion

By Andrew Lu on June 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Louis Vuitton protects its monogrammed image like a mama bear protects its cubs.

Earlier this year, Louis Vuitton successfully sued Hyundai for including a Louis Vuitton basketball in one of its car commercials.

Piggybacking on that success, another Louis Vuitton lawsuit was brought, this time suing Warner Brothers for its Hangover movie for including a scene with knockoff Louis Vuitton luggage and a common American mistranslation of the name "Louis." But in this case, Louis Vuitton lost.

How was this case different from Hyundai?

In the Hangover case, federal judge Andrew Carter of Manhattan dismissed the case saying that Warner Brothers' use of the famous monogram was protected under the First Amendment as it was just used in fun, reports Reuters.

Distinguishing Hyundai, Carter made clear the car manufacturer was using the Louis Vuitton mark, even if humorously, in an effort to sell cars. Hyundai is a car manufacturer with aspirations of becoming higher class, and a humorous attachment with the French designer could inappropriately convey benefits to Hyundai that would first need Louis Vuitton's approval.

With Warner Brothers, the movie producers were not trying to convey class by invoking Louis Vuitton luggage into their movie. Instead, the character in the movie was an eccentric goofball screwup and his use (and mispronunciation) of Louis Vuitton was purely for humor's sake, reports Reuters. So on one hand, Hyundai was using Louis Vuitton to sell cars, while on the other hand, Warner Brothers was using Louis Vuitton for laughs.

Carter emphasized the doofiness of the Zack Galifianakis character, quoting from a scene in which he continually calls Thailand "Thigh-land" and noting that in the airport scene, Alan's reference to his Vuitton bag "comes across as funny because he mispronounces the French 'Louis' like the English 'Lewis.'" Judge Carter certainly enjoyed the popcorn research involved on this case.

Louis Vuitton is vociferously protecting its trademark in infringement lawsuits. The French designer beat Hyundai, but lost to Warner Brothers. A New York judge found that the differences in the Louis Vuitton lawsuits all boiled down to being funny.

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