February 14, 2023
By Anjali Kochhar
Fashion giant Hermes, which owns the luxury brand, sued Mason Rothschild after he created non-fungible tokens based on the famous bags.
Hermes said consumers would believe the products were officially associated with the brand, according to a BBC report.
The landmark case sets a precedent for other trials around NFTs.
The jury awarded Hermes $133,000 (£110,000) in damages, rejecting Rothschild’s argument that his products, which he began selling in 2021, were works of art commenting on the market for luxury goods and should be protected by laws governing free speech.
A lawyer representing Rothschild said it was a “terrible day for artists and the First Amendment”.
NFTs are unique products that are verified using blockchain technology. While most sell for around a hundred dollars, they can be worth millions.
As per the report, Rothschild produced a series of images of the famous bag calling them “MetaBirkins”. One was covered in shaggy green fur. There was a version based on Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting, and an animation of a foetus growing inside a transparent Birkin handbag – a play on the brand’s smaller model of its bag known as the “baby Birkin”.
The artist claimed his works were in the same vein as Andy Warhol’s reproductions of Campbell soup cans.
But the jury decided they should be seen as consumer products and were therefore covered by trademark law.
Hermes said Rothschild was a “digital speculator” who created his images of the bag as a “get rich quick” scheme. It said over $1m (£828,000) worth of MetaBirkins had been sold since December 2021.
The fashion house said it had plans to issue NFTs itself, which were constrained by Rothschild’s actions.
About the author
Anjali Kochhar covers cryptocurrency stories in India as well as globally. Having been in the field of media and journalism for over three years now, she has developed a sharp news sense and works hard to present information that goes beyond the obvious. She is an avid reader and loves writing on a wide range of subjects.