Shoe designer, Antonio Brown, who is the force behind runs up-and-coming label, LVL XIII (pronounced Level Thirteen), has filed a lawsuit against Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey, LVMH, alleging that Louis Vuitton has committed trademark infringement with it ‘On The Road’ footwear collection. Brown is claiming that the nameplate that Vuitton has incorporated into its shoes is infringing upon the nameplates that Brown features on his own footwear collection.
The basis of trademark infringement case is whether the mark is confusingly similar to an inherently distinctive mark owned by the petitioner in the lawsuit. Here, Brown has to prove that the toeplates on Louis Vuitton’s ‘On The Road’ shoes are confusingly similar to the toeplates that Brown has adorned on his LVL XIII shoes since 2013.
Here, the toeplates are rather similar to each other in the design and the placement of the plates on the toe of the shoes. However, it seems that the crux of the case will rest on whether the toeplates are inherently distinctive, which Brown will have to prove in order to be victorious. This means that Brown would have to show that a consumer would recognize the toeplate as signifier of the LVL XIII brand.
In the suit, Brown states that the nameplates are, in fact, inherently distinctive and have become a recognizable signature of his products and ultimately his brand, through the use of the shoes by celebrities such as Chris Brown and Tyson Beckford.
Brown alleges that the use of the nameplates by the Parisian fashion house is unfair competition because they are “confusingly similar to the LVL XIII toe plate” and thus is an infringement of footwear collections’ trade dress and ultimately trades on the brand’s goodwill.
In a NY Daily News article, Brown tells the newspaper that he “was a little distraught that this had happened,” because he feels that Vuitton’s global presence has helped the brand take credit for Brown’s idea of the use of the nameplates on the shoes. Brown says that buyers called him a copycat and believed that he had taken the idea from Vuitton’s collection.
A rep for Vuitton commented to NY Daily News that, “The lawsuit is entirely without merit, and the company will vigorously defend itself.”
It seems that the case will rest on whether the toeplates are a signifier of the LVL XIII brand. Can’t wait to see how Vuitton responds to the lawsuit.