No. You’re not having déjà vu. Louis is at it again. Danity Kane recently settled a dispute brought on by their use of Louis Vuitton trademarks in the song “Show Stopper” off of their debut album and the accompanying video. You remember the lyrics “Bet you ain’t never seen, Chicks ridin’ this clean, Louis Vuitton seats, We do it deadly.” DK’s management (Diddy and them) have agreed to make an amended version of the album available and remove the images from the video.
Louis sued Britney Spears a while back for displaying the LV logo in one of her videos, and denied rapper T.I. permission to use the products in his video for the song “Swing Ya Rag” off of his most recent album, Paper Trail. But that’s not all, folks. See more here, and here, and here.
Why is Louis so protective of his brand? Let me try to break it down for you. It’s actually quite simple. Well, sort of. Louis Vuitton has been granted trademarks (exclusive rights to use) for the LV logo and words “Louis Vuitton”. So, therefore, Louis can use the LV logo any way he damn well pleases (which would explain why there was no problem here, or here, or here ), and prevent others from using them without permission. Louis actually has a legal obligation to police the use of the marks in order to keep his rights.
Anyone who uses the marks without permission is an infringer. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule but, no bright line rules. Use of the marks for discussion (like here) or to criticize is called “fair use”, and is legal. Which might explain, if you were wondering, why DK’s use of the words “Louis Vuitton” in the song was challenged. Louis would argue that the group’s use was not for comment or criticism, but purely for the artist’s desire to sell albums, an illegal use. DK’s counsel perhaps didn’t believe that the alternative argument would hold up in court, hence the settlement. Or, perhaps economically, it just wasn’t worth arguing over. But, note that T.I. hasn’t re-released his album without the words Gucci or Loui (which Louis just might have trademarked).
Which leaves the only remaining question why did Louis deny DK, Britney and T.I. permission, either before or after their unauthorized uses, to use the marks? Well, we know T.I. got himself in some legal trouble that Louis understandably wants no association with. But, DK and Britney… in legal terms, it’s called dilution.