Louis Vuitton Malletier v. My Other Bag, Inc.
The fashion giant sued a one-woman company whose product, a tote bag, poked fun at Louis Vuitton’s famous handbag by scrawling the words “My Other Bag” on one side of the tote and displaying an altered version of the famous Louis Vuitton pattern, altered to replace LV with MOB, on the other. Louis Vuitton claimed trademark dilution, trademark infringement, and copyright infringement; the case was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment, which was summarily affirmed on appeal, but not until the defendant’s lawyers had run up roughly $700,000 in billable attorney fees. Public Citizen entered the case after summary judgment was granted to argue that the court should abandon the previously governing appellate precedent requiring a finding of bad faith before a trademark plaintiff can be held liable for the defendant’s attorney fees, following instead the precedent set in a Supreme Court decision holding that identical language providing for fees in patent cases does not require a showing of bad faith. We argue that the lawsuit was patently groundless, that this big company had sued in the expectation that a small company could not afford to defend itself, and that Louis Vuitton’s history of trademark bullying further supports an attorney fee award in this case. Following the appeal, we have refiled the application for an award of attorney fees.