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LVMH, Dooney Decision Expected Soon

NEW YORK — A decision in the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton lawsuit against Dooney & Bourke over trademark infringement is expected to be reached within 30 days, according to a lawyer in the case.<BR><BR>Thomas McAndrew, the lawyer...

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NEW YORK — A decision in the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton lawsuit against Dooney & Bourke over trademark infringement is expected to be reached within 30 days, according to a lawyer in the case.

Thomas McAndrew, the lawyer for Dooney & Bourke president Peter Dooney, outlined the time frame after arguments closed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. During the hearings over the last two weeks, Vuitton maintained that Dooney & Bourke’s multicolored monogram “It” bag too closely resembles its own blockbuster Murakami line. The French luxury company filed suit against the accessories brand alleging trademark infringement in April. The lawsuit also claims unfair competition, but doesn’t contain any allegations of counterfeiting.

Peter Dooney has repeatedly denied any accusations of copycatting. Judge Shira Scheindlin advised both sides to attempt to reach a settlement, but McAndrew did not comment on whether this will occur.

Both handbag collections feature multicolored logo designs on both white or black leather bags. The Vuitton line, a collaboration between designer Marc Jacobs and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami introduced for spring 2003, can cost upwards of $15,000. Style icons such as Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez have been photographed wearing the bags, and Lopez appeared in the Vuitton ad campaign with the Murakami.

The Dooney designs sell from $125 to $275 in specialty stores and, like the Murakami, come in a variety of sizes and styles. However, McAndrew attested the Dooney bags are available in ecru, not white, and that the colors used for the multicolored logo are different than those used on the Murakami.

“There isn’t any evidence of a customer buying a Dooney & Bourke bag and thinking it was Louis Vuitton and conversely anyone buying a Louis Vuitton bag thinking it was Dooney & Bourke,” McAndrew said. “No Louis Vuitton bags have been returned to Dooney & Bourke to be fixed or the other way around.”

He continued, “Louis Vuitton is claiming a monopoly on a white or black background when a company uses its own trademarked multicolored logo.”

McAndrew dismissed concern over e-mails revealed in testimony wherein a Dooney sales representative referred to the “It” bags as “à la Louis Vuitton.”

This story first appeared in the August 13, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“That’s much ado about nothing,” he said. “They’re referring to the style in the way people in the fashion industry typically do.”

In the lawsuit, LVMH said nearly 70,000 handbags and accessories featuring the Murakami design have been sold in the U.S., with a market value of over $40 million. Industry sources estimated sales of the total Murakami line roped in at least $345 million for the brand in 2003, roughly 10 percent of Vuitton’s total revenues.

French luxury analysts last year told WWD that Vuitton had accomplished a unique formula in creating a style that is both an instant bestseller and a new basic with plenty of future sales potential.

It was noted that Vuitton’s core lines, which include Epi and Damier ranges, generate about three-quarters of Vuitton sales — and Murakami products instantly reached that status.

Yves Carcelle, chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton, has said LVMH has a zero tolerance policy toward trademark infringers. He also disclosed the brand has increased its budgets for trademark protection.

Historically the French luxury house focuses on punishing counterfeit goods; the Dooney trademark infringement case represents a new trend in legal action.

— With contributions from Ross Tucker

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