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VUITTON LOSES EFFORT TO BLOCK RIVAL’S DESIGN NEW YORK — Handbag maker Louis Vuitton has been rebuffed in an effort to claim trademark violation by a competitor using a similar “look” that included its own intertwined initials. Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin, said a bag made by the competitor, Dooney & Bourke, resembled Vuitton’s but not to the level of trademark infringement. And the obvious difference between “LV” and “DB” made consumer confusion unlikely, she wrote in Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Dooney & Bourke, 04 Civ. 2990. The case flowed from the introduction in October 2002 of Vuitton’s Monogram Multicolore bags. The company put its “LV” and geometric shapes in bright colors on white or black handbags. The move spawned copycats. The judge said she received 20,000 pages of submissions, but that “no amount of expert opinion, legal analysis or demonstrative evidence can overcome the clarity that comes from direct observation.” Dooney & Bourke’s use of a multicolored “DB” monogram on purses with white or black backgrounds obviously did not use the “LV” logo, she concluded. This simple difference tipped the scales in Dooney & Bourke’s favor. With that decided, the only question left was whether Louis Vuitton could trademark a multicolor monogram against a white or black background. Judge Scheindlin said no. “To hold otherwise would not only contravene settled law,” she said, “it would grant Louis Vuitton monopoly rights over a ‘look.’” — New York Law Journal LAWYER EMBEZZLEMENT CAN TOLL STATUTES PHILADELPHIA — When a bankruptcy lawyer embezzles funds from an estate, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that statutes of limitations should not be strictly enforced since the trust placed in the lawyer may have prevented the debtor and trustee from discovering the theft. In its 25-page opinion in In re Mushroom Transportation, a unanimous three-judge panel revived legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims against now-disbarred attorney Jonathan Ganz and his former, now-dissolved firm, Pincus Verlin Hahn & Reich. Ganz pleaded guilty to charges that he used his position as a bankruptcy attorney for trustees of bankrupt businesses to skim more than $2.6 million funds from the companies’ estates. He was sentenced in 1995 to two years in prison. But when one of Ganz’s victims, Mushroom Transportation Co., filed an adversary proceeding against his firm and its individual partners, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bruce Fox found that the statute of limitations had run on all the claims. MTC’s claims failed, Fox found, because it could not show that it had acted with reasonable diligence in ferreting out the embezzlement. Fox’s ruling was later upheld by U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno. Now the Third Circuit has ruled that the lower courts were too quick to reject the debtor’s claim that the statutes of limitations should have been tolled since there was evidence that Ganz took steps to hide his thefts. “We believe that the decisions below establish a policy that fosters lawyers’ abuse of their fiduciary relationships with their clients, and fail adequately to protect the justifiable reliance of clients on their lawyers’ probity and trustworthiness,” U.S. Circuit Judge Michael Fisher wrote in a unanimous opinion joined by Chief Judge Anthony Scirica and visiting Ninth Circuit Senior Judge Arthur Alarcon. — The Legal Intelligencer

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