Last year, I blogged about "Lessons from Louis Vuitton on the Risk of Unauthorized Product Placements". That dispute featured LV’s objection to the appearance of its products and trademarks in videos and album art for Danity Kane, a group released through Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Records label.
As I’ve previously said when evaluating the risks of using copyrighted and other protected works without permission, one of the factors to consider is whether the rights owner previously objected to similar uses. It is a good bet that rights owners who have been aggressive in protecting their rights in the past will continue to be aggressive in protecting their rights in the future.
Louis Vuitton is proving the accuracy of this principle. Louis Vuitton now has an ongoing trademark lawsuit against Hyundai which showed the LV trademark for about five seconds in its Super Bowl luxury commercial.
While Hyundai probably wants this dispute to disappear quickly, getting a court opinion on the substantive issues would be a boon for media producers and the attorneys who advise them on when and how one can permissibly use product appearances in creative works.
Update: After two years of litigation, Louis Vuitton won a summary judgment motion finding Hyundai liable for trademark dilution. Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Hyundai Motor America, 10 Civ. 1611 (PKC) (S.D.N.Y., March 22, 2012). The parties later reached a settlement agreement setting the amount of trademark dilution damages to be paid by Hyundai.