Being a Penn Law graduate, I could not not write about this interesting recent development affecting the Law School.
Here is what happened: the IP student group at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (also known as Penn Law) organized an intellectual property law symposium "IP Issues in Fashion Law" scheduled for March 20th. They designed a flyer for the event using artwork that was a parody on Louis Vuitton marks. An image of the flyer can be found here as Exhibit A.
On February 29th, Michael Pantalony, the Director of Civil Enforcement for Louis Vuitton sent to Penn Law's Dean Michael Fitts a cease and desist letter regarding the flyer, available in the same pdf as above. In his letter, Mr. Pantalony claimed that the flyer was a "serious willful infringement" on LV's trademarks and that it "knowingly dilute[d] the LV Trademarks".
Robert Firestone, the Associate General Counsel of the University of Pennsylvania was quick to respond on March 2nd. In his letter, found here, Mr. Firestone disagreed with the statements made in the LV cease and desist letter. Mr. Firestone noted that the flyer couldn't possibly be a "serious willful infringement" since it wasn't used as trademark (the parody artwork in question was not used to identify any goods or services in interstate commerce). Also, it is unlikely that any of the LV trademarks were in class 41 that would cover educational symposia. Further, Mr. Firestone pointed out that even if the artwork were a mark, there is an explicit exception to any liability for dilution for any "noncommercial use of the mark". Finally, the artwork clearly constitutes a fair use.
Mr. Firestone also invited Mr. Pantalony to the symposium.
Penn Law, - I am proud to be your alum.
This article is not a legal advice, and was written for general informational purposes only. If you have questions or comments about the article or are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to contact its author, Arina Shulga. Ms. Shulga is the founder of Shulga Law Firm, P.C., a New York-based boutique law firm specializing in advising individual and corporate clients on aspects of business, corporate, securities, and intellectual property law.