June 27, 2023
By Sharan Kaur Phillora
In a groundbreaking legal battle, luxury brand Hermes has emerged victorious in its bid to permanently halt artist Mason Rothschild’s sales of “MetaBirkin” non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Here’s what we know:
The US court ruled in favor of Hermes, declaring that Rothschild’s NFTs infringed upon the trademark rights of the French luxury house’s iconic Birkin handbags. NFTs are unique digital tokens that employ blockchain technology to verify ownership of digital artworks.
US District Judge Jed Rakoff justified the decision to impose a permanent injunction, citing the potential confusion among consumers and the irreparable harm that Rothschild’s continued marketing of the NFTs would cause to Hermes. Additionally, the judge rejected Rothschild’s requests to dismiss the verdict or initiate a new trial.
In the judge’s ruling, he stated, “The defendant’s sole intention was to deceive consumers by exploiting variations of Hermes’ trademarks, leading them to believe that Hermes endorsed his profitable MetaBirkins NFTs. The First Amendment does not shield him from liability for such deceptive practices.”
Hermes initiated legal action against Rothschild in 2022, alleging that his MetaBirkins, a collection of 100 NFTs depicting Birkin handbags adorned with vibrant fur, constituted a “get rich quick” scheme that infringed upon their “Birkin” trademark while misleadingly associating the fashion house with the tokens.
Rothschild countered these claims, asserting that his artworks were a form of absurdist commentary on luxury goods and should be protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which allows for the artistic use of trademarks as long as they do not intentionally deceive consumers.
Earlier this year, a jury ruled in favor of Hermes and awarded the company $133,000 in damages. However, Rothschild reportedly continued marketing his NFTs despite the verdict. In response, Hermes sought a court order to halt his activities, demanding the surrender of the remaining tokens and any profits garnered after the trial.
The court’s decision sets a precedent in the legal landscape surrounding NFTs, reaffirming the importance of safeguarding trademark rights and preventing deceptive practices within the digital art market.
About the author
Sharan Kaur Phillora’s thirst for knowledge has led her to study many different subjects, including NFTs and Blockchain technology – two emerging technologies that will change how we interact with each other in the future. When she isn’t exploring a new idea or concept, she enjoys reading literary masterpieces.