Sued by Louis Vuitton, Nadia Plesner gets her day in court

Darfurnica (detail), Nadia Plesner, 2010

Danish artist Nadia Plesner, the subject of two lawsuits in recent years by luxury goods brand Louis Vuitton had her say in court in The Hague yesterday. Louis Vuitton -- which had profits of $28.26 billion last year -- is suing her for copyright infringement for rendering one of its handbags in her painting Darfurnica, which seeks to raise awareness of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, Sudan. The company seeks to penalize her 5,000 Euros for each day the artistic work is pictured on her website and aims to prevent Plesner from exhibiting the painting either on her website or at venues in the European Union.

Yesterday, Plesner finally got to present her defense -- before a full-sized reproduction of the painting. On Facebook she shares how it went:
They stated that they have no problem with Darfurnica, never had, and that they only object to me using "their product" in my Simple Living "logo" [pictured here]. We highly objected to it all, since Simple Living is an art work, just as Darfurnica and because LV has aggressively been going after the painting from day one.

We also presented the threats regarding the painting that LV's attorney made to me by phone, which he of course denied completely.

I thought the most important part was when the judge asked LV's attorney why Darfurnica was mentioned in the lawsuit - and forbidden by the court order - if they didn't have a problem with it? To which their attorney responded "You shouldn't read it like that."

Then the judge asked how else he could read it, since the painting is the first thing mentioned in the list of works they want to forbid, but their attorney insisted that the court order should be read as if the paragraph regarding Darfurnica was not there. He aggressively went on and on for an hour about how I abused them, for example by using their Audra bag as an eyecatcher on the invitation for my exhibition. Yes, I used my own Simple Living drawing (not their Audra Bag) on the invitation to my art exhibition about Darfur. What a crazy thing to do.

We had a 1:1 print of Darfurnica in the court room and I presented it to the judge and explained why I painted it and what the different symbols represented. I have had the chance to present Darfurnica to a lot of different people by now both in my studio, in the Odd Fellow Palace and at the HEART museum, but it felt so surreal to do it in a court room, especially in front of various LV representatives.

I explained the urgency for raising awareness about the situation in Darfur, and how I had painted various Hollywood gossip stories that got an insane amount of media attention.

The judge listened, and I believe he understood the meaning of the painting.

There were about 65 people present during the hearing, many artists and fellow students came to support me, and they had made these great little supportive badges with different texts like: "Louis, art is cool", etc. It made a great difference to me that I was not there alone, and I am grateful to the people who showed up.

There were also different reporters present, and even though LV's attorney consistently claimed that I had manipulated the media to be on my side, the articles today are not different from the previous ones, even after the reporters had heard both sides of the story and were presented with the evidence from both sides.

The final result was that we asked the judge to have the court order from January 27th annulled, and LV objected to this. The judge said he would try to give his ruling before May 4, 2011.


Anonymous said...

Attended the court hearing yesterday. One should distinguish clearly between: (i) using an icon like LV in a painting, with an underlying meaning of the icon within the context of the painting's meaning, and (ii) using the icon as part of your own logo, trademark as an 'eye catcher' for promoting the artist's work. As regards the use under (i), that will be - for sure; also in The Netherlands - within the fundamental right of freedom of expression. However, as regards the use under (ii), basically the artist is then adopting an icon trademark (TM) of someone else in one's own TM, and that I would say should not be allowable. That is just stealing, profiting, or whatever term one would use for it. It is a pity that the question was not raised yesterday (neither by the parties, nor by the judge) whether the use of LV's bag is allowable in the Simple Living painting. I personally would categorize it under (i), but I'm sure LV would rather not allow it..
Interesting case, but not as far reaching as it is exposed in the press.

Anonymous said...

The idea that a infringement has taken place with the design identity of LV is completely inappropriate. It's unsettling to learn that a fundamental aspect of art is under attack by obdurate lawyers on the behalf of multi billion dollar corporations. The aspects and theories of art are essential and directly related to the concept of free speech. Art is the intransigent front of liberty that exists in the ideas of people.
It has no boundaries and no limitations. If someone wanted to go buy a LV bag put it on display and title it "frivolous shit" it should be their right. To utilize the visual culture that saturates life through art is a inherent power that gives humanity an outlet for life's visual subjugation. You can "own" a petty bag company, but you can't posses the idea of high class fashion. People are saying the bag was used as an "eye catcher" on the invitation for the show somehow making it a trademark is absurd. anyone who has seen the painting would immediately recognize the symbolic nature to the bags involvement. This is all just disgusting. shame on you Louis Vuitton you are just as vapid as the celebrities that obsess over your lame ass patterns.

Anonymous said...

Less then an hour ago the appealcourt in The Hague decided against Louis Vuiton. According to the court, freedom of speech is more important then brand protection.

From a Dutch newssite:

And the same article, robo-translated by Google: