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OFF BEAT: Law school accused of infringement on promo for copyright symposium


Talk about a teachable moment: A symposium on fashion trademark and copyright law hosted by the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Law School has itself been accused of infringement by a major design house.

Late last month, attorneys for the New York-based luxury designer Louis Vuitton Malletier lobbed a cease-and-desist order at the school’s Intellectual Property Group, which had used an altered version of the designer’s signature brown-and-gold pattern in promotional materials for the March 20 symposium.

In its Feb. 29 letter to Penn administrators, Louis Vuitton scolded the school for using the augmented design—in place of the company’s “LV” monogram and clover, the school used the emblems for copyright and trademark—and expressed concern that it was misleading its students as to the nature of intellectual property rights.

“This egregious action is not only a serious and willful infringement and knowingly dilutes the (Louis Vuitton) trademarks, but also may mislead others into thinking that this type of unlawful activity is somehow ‘legal’ or constitutes ‘fair use’ because the Penn Intellectual Property Group is sponsoring a seminar on fashion law and ‘must be experts,’” Louis Vuitton’s attorney, Michael Pantaloney wrote in the letter.

Two days later, Penn’s associate general counsel, Robert Firestone, said he had no plans of advising the symposium’s organizers to stop using the altered logo in posters and invitations to the event, negating a promise previously made by the school’s associate dean of communications to remove the offending artwork.

“Now that we have had the time to consider your letter and investigate the facts and the law, I will be advising the students otherwise,” Mr. Firestone wrote. “The poster and invitation are clear that Louis Vuitton is not a sponsor of the symposium, and no reasonable person would be confused or deceived as to sponsorship, affiliation, connection or association…merely because of the clever artwork parody.”