Looking Back: Evaluating Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog, LLC and its Lasting Impact on Trademark Law - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Looking Back: Evaluating Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog, LLC and its Lasting Impact on Trademark Law

Looking Back: Evaluating Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog, LLC and its Lasting Impact on Trademark Law

In September of 2007, the Fourth Circuit heard argument in Louis Vuitton S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog, LLC on appeal from the District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia’s grant of summary judgment for Haute Diggity Dog (appellee).1  In its claim, Louis Vuitton alleged that Haute Diggity Dog’s manufacturing of “Chewy Vuiton” dog toys amounted to trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and copyright infringement.2  The Fourth Circuit affirmed the Eastern District’s holding for Haute Diggity Dog as to each claim.3  This decision remains prevalent in the realm of intellectual property law that has dissuaded, though not entirely stopped, some of the world’s largest and most well-known brands from pursuing suits against smaller manufacturers that seek to profit from parody.4  Evaluating the reasoning given by the Fourth Circuit yields the conclusion that despite the undeniable influence of the Louis Vuitton Malletier (LVM) brand, courts will evaluate trademark claims objectively and avoid perpetuating the tacit monopoly that the largest names hold over the fashion marketplace.

The opinion centers around the notion of whether a parody (here, the “Chewy Vuiton” dog toy) necessarily creates a likelihood of confusion for consumers and rises to the level of trademark infringement.5  The court lays out several factors that ought to be considered in determining whether the infringement claim is substantiated.6  But, before turning to these factors the court acknowledges that here, “the satire is unmistakable,” and the parody executed by appellee Haute Diggity Dog is successful.7  While this determination assists in determining whether confusion has been created, it is not the end of the inquiry.  Inherent in the question of a parody’s success is whether it calls to mind its subject.8  Part of the humor of this opinion comes from the Fourth Circuit’s playful critique of the satire embodied by Haute Diggity Dog’s products:

The dog toy irreverently presents haute couture as an object for casual canine destruction. The satire is unmistakable. The dog toy is a comment on the rich and famous, on the LOUIS VUITTON name and related marks, and on conspicuous consumption in general. This parody is enhanced by the fact that “Chewy Vuiton” dog toys are sold with similar parodies of other famous and expensive brands — “Chewnel No. 5” targeting “Chanel No. 5”; “Dog Perignonn” targeting “Dom Perignon”; and “Sniffany & Co.” targeting “Tiffany & Co.”9

 

After this thoughtful deliberation about appellee’s products, the court notes that, in reality, the success of a parody lessens the risk of confusion by emphasizing its differences for satirical effect.10

The crux of LVM’s argument here seems predicated on the fact that the existence of Haute Diggity Dog’s parody products cheapens its long-standing image, regardless of whether these products infringe on LVM’s trademark.  Insofar as appellee’s products are not advertised, sold, manufactured, or intended to conflict with LVM’s, the court is remiss to uphold the infringement claim.11  Although this concern would more accurately fall under a tarnishment claim (also filed by LVM) it was nonetheless additionally brought under a broad infringement action due to the complete lack of tangible evidence to show that appellee tarnished LVM’s brand.12  Appellant futilely claimed that appellee’s products posed a choking hazard to dogs, a risk that, if realized, would reflect poorly on its trademark.13  The court found no credibility to this claim, dispatched with the argument, and affirmed the District Court’s holding as to each claim in favor of Haute Diggity Dog.14

Haute Diggity Dog still operates a successful online business, continues to make parody dog toys, and has paved the way for other parody retailers.  Despite the odds, Haute Diggity Dog proved that their business was not precluded by trademark law and that Louis Vuitton was barking up the wrong tree.


  1. 507 F.3d 252 (4th Cir. 2007)

  2. Id. at 256.

  3. Id. at 270.

  4. See Balenciaga is Taking on a Pet “Streetwear” Company Over Pawlenciaga Trademark, The Fashion Law, https://www.thefashionlaw.com/balenciaga-takes-on-pet-company-over-pawlenciaga-trademark/ (Sep. 27, 2018) [https://perma.cc/W9D6-GBXK].

  5. Louis Vuitton, 507 F.3d at 260.

  6. Id. at 259.

  7. Id. at 261.

  8. Id.

  9. Id.

  10. Id.

  11. Id. at 263.

  12. Id. at 269.

  13. Id.

  14. Id. at 270.

Jack Barton

Jack Barton is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. He competed as a member of the Fordham Law Moot Court Board during Fall 2020. He holds a B.A. in English from the College of the Holy Cross.