Close Menu

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

Years ago, as a young lawyer just starting to practice, my sister asked me to intervene in a dispute she was having with the management company that owned her apartment. The company was refusing to return her security deposit, despite the fact that the apartment was pristine when she left (I know, since I helped move her out). In addition, the landlord—who fancied himself a bit of a comedian—had mildly insulted her when she called to complain. I was apoplectic. Strapping on my newly minted legal six-guns, I vowed this outrage would not stand. I wrote an angry, nay vituperative, letter to the management company, reciting fact and law, questioning their motives, threatening defamation and anything else I could think of. I was confident in both the law and the ultimate rightness of my cause. The letter I received in response, however, was enlightening on a number of levels. It has been a few years, of course, but I recall it read something like this: “We did not know who Ms. Haggerty was until now, but thanks to your letter, we’re going to do everything we can to make her life miserable.” Needless to say, she never got her security deposit back. And I learned a valuable lesson that I now use daily, as both a lawyer and a consultant to companies on communicating during high-profile lawsuits: Lighten up! Sometimes you serve your client and their ultimate legal and business goals better that way. I was reminded of this while reading a recent article in The AmLaw Litigation Daily about Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A, the well-known maker of luxury goods, particularly handbags and luggage. A knock-off of one of their bags had appeared in the popular 2011 movie The Hangover: Part II. Despite the fact that the counterfeit LV travel bag was a fake—the character played by Zach Galifianakis sanctimoniously refers to the bag as a “Lewis Vuitton”—Louis Vuitton sued Warner Bros. for trademark infringement. The company’s lawyers insisted in federal court in Manhattan that the presence of the bag created “customer confusion.” The judge in the case did not agree, dismissing the suit and stating that the use of the counterfeit bag in the movie was noncommercial speech protected by the First Amendment. To the surprise of no one, I’ll bet. And that’s the point. Few disagree with the importance of aggressively protecting a company’s trademark, but lawyers and their clients need to also realize trademarks are merely one component of a company’s overall brand. As much as trademarks, copyright, and other intellectual property, reputation is what makes a brand. And while no company wants to have its brand diluted, I would argue reputation trumps trademark in many, many cases—particularly when dealing with luxury goods where the perception of exclusivity and cachet forms the basis of brand equity. Louis Vuitton can afford a satirical cameo of a counterfeit bag in a hit movie; it can less afford to seem uptight and uncool in the eyes of its customers. So lawyers and other advisors who are counseling companies need to be conscious of the broader effect of their aggressive legal tactics in the court of public opinion, even as they are working to aggressively defend the company’s interests where appropriate. Occasionally that requires . . . well, learning to take a joke. As in my landlord-fighting example, a lighter touch would have likely served the client’s interests better in the Vuitton case. Such nuance can sometimes be lost on hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners litigators for whom “see you in court” is often the knee-jerk response to every client problem. As the saying goes: when you own a hammer, every problem is a nail. (Indeed, Louis Vuitton has been criticized in the past for its overly aggressive trademark protection efforts.) Jenner & Block’s Andrew Bart, quoted in the AmLaw article, summed it up well when discussing the difficulties with Vuitton’s approach:

Like all trademark holders, Bart said, Louis Vuitton has to find the “delicate balance” between fighting to protect its trademarks and being overly aggressive. “It’s a challenge to a lawyer to find that right balance,” Bart says.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.

More From ALM

Premium Subscription

With this subscription you will receive unlimited access to high quality, online, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry. This is perfect for attorneys licensed in multiple jurisdictions or for attorneys that have fulfilled their CLE requirement but need to access resourceful information for their practice areas.
View Now

Team Accounts

Our Team Account subscription service is for legal teams of four or more attorneys. Each attorney is granted unlimited access to high quality, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry along with administrative access to easily manage CLE for the entire team.
View Now

Bundle Subscriptions

Gain access to some of the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with our 2 bundle options! Our Compliance bundles are curated by CLE Counselors and include current legal topics and challenges within the industry. Our second option allows you to build your bundle and strategically select the content that pertains to your needs. Both options are priced the same.
View Now

Legalweek(year) 2021

February 02, 2021 - July 14, 2021

Legalweek(year) will bring together thousands of legal professionals for a series of 5 innovative virtual legal events.


General Counsel Conference Midwest: SuperConference 2021

July 26, 2021 - July 27, 2021
Chicago, IL

GCC Midwest addresses today's legal issues facing companies by providing general counsel with insight and best practices.


General Counsel Summit (GCS) 2021

September 07, 2021 - September 08, 2021

General Counsel Summit is the premier event for in-house counsel, hosting esteemed legal minds from all sectors of the economy.



Glen Rock and Asbury Park, New Jersey, United States

Transactional/Community Association AttorneyBuckalew Frizzell & Crevina,, with offices in Glen Rock and Asbury Park, NJ, s...

Apply Now ›

Litigation Paralegal Wanted - New York

New York, New York, United States

Small but growing Downtown firm, seeking paralegal with at least 2 years' experience in medical malpractice and personal injury. Responsibi...

Apply Now ›

Attorney - Elder Law - Trusts And Estates

White Plains, New York, United States

Prominent, multidisciplined White Plains law firm seeks attorney with 4-plus year experience in Elder Law and Trusts and Estates. Position r...

Apply Now ›


DR Web


View Announcement ›



IN MEMORIAM - The lawyers of Mintz & Gold LLP mourn the loss of our friend and partner Kevin W. Goering

View Announcement ›



Kolsby, Gordon, Robin & Shore, P.C. Announce with great sadness the loss of our beloved founding partner, a renowned trial lawyer, community leader and distinguished professor.

View Announcement ›

Subscribe to Corporate Counsel

Don't miss the crucial news and insights you need to make informed legal decisions. Join Corporate Counsel now!

Unlimited access to Corporate Counsel
Access to additional free ALM publications
1 free article* across the ALM subscription network every 30 days
Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications
Join Corporate Counsel

Already have an account? Sign In