- Luxury designer Hermès has won a lawsuit against NFT creator Mason Rothschild over his digital depictions of “Metabirkins”
- Rothschild used the famous handbags in his NFT designs without permission
- Hermès was awarded $133,000 in damages after the jury ruled the artist had simply ripped them off
Luxury designer Hermès has won a lawsuit against NFT creator Mason Rothschild over his digital depictions of Metabirkins’, NFT images of its famous Birkin handbags. Hermès argued that the NFTs infringed on its trademark, with Rotshchild arguing that they were covered under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, comparing its use to Andy Warhol’s use of Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles in his artwork. However, the jury didn’t buy this and awarded Hermès $133,000 in damages.
Rothschild “Appropriated” the Birkin and Hermès’ Names
Metabirkins were, as the jury correctly ruled, a blatant rip off of the famous Birkin handbags, which sell for anything from $13,000 upwards. The collection, launched in 2021, consisted of a set of 100 distinct NFTs crafted from faux fur and featuring modern colors and designs. To date, the collection has generated over 200 ETH in sales ($309,000 today), but it didn’t take long for Hermès to catch on, and sued Rothschild last year.
Hermès’ legal team claimed that Rothschild had “appropriated the reputation and prestige of Hermès’ well-known intellectual property to manufacture and sell his own line of goods.” They also contended that customers might mistakenly associate the Metabirkins NFTs with authentic Hermès products, and that the Metabirkins website URL was too similar to that of the luxury brand.
First Amendment Claim Fails
Rothschild’s legal team tried to claim that the designs fell under the First Amendment and cited famous other works featuring will-known brands or products, but the jury wasn’t buying – after two days of deliberation they reached a verdict, declaring Rothschild to be guilty of trademark infringement and “trademark dilution.” In a rebuke of Rothschild’s defense, they added that, “First Amendment protection does not exempt the defendant from liability.”
Hermès was awarded $133,000 in damages, with $110,000 for trademark infringement and $23,000 for cybersquatting. This case highlights the growing problem of copyright and trademark infringement in NFTs, something that, for now at least, appears to be a difficult one to rein in.