French fashion house, Louis Vuitton, has succeeded in a trade mark infringement battle against The Face Shop for using their famous designs on its products.
The Face Shop is a manufacturer and retailer of skincare and cosmetic products. The Defendant company, based in South Korea, is a subsidiary of the multinational corporation, LG.
The dispute arose on the back of The Face Shop's collaboration with American brand, My Other Bag, a company known for manufacturing imitation designer bags that parody the likes of Louis Vuitton, YSL and Céline. The Face Shop created a range of cosmetic products which feature the trade mark protected designs of Louis Vuitton including their signature pattern known as the 'monogram canvas'.
In 2016, Louis Vuitton filed a separate claim against My Other Bag alleging that their imitation bags undermined their trade mark and copyright protection, however, the court dismissed the claim as My Other Bag successfully pleaded the parody defence.
The parody defence is successfully used by demonstrating that the parody product takes some of the original work but it is clear that it is not the original product nor connected to it. The parody product bears no likelihood of confusion and is a humourous take on the original product.
The Face Shop cited the earlier ruling for My Other Bag and tried to argue the parody defence. However, the Central District Court of Seoul dismissed the argument because the intention to parody the luxury brand was not clearly shown in the products.
The court ordered The Face Shop to remove from sale products that featured the Louis Vuitton design and to pay a fine of 50 million South Korean won, the equivalent of £34,000.
This case may act as cautionary advice for businesses that manufacture imitation products, to carefully consider the parody requirements when designing them.
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