French luxury group Hermès has filed a trademark lawsuit against US digital creator Mason Rothschild and his digital art project, MetaBirkins. According to multiple media reports including The Guardian, the luxury brand is suing Rothschild for creating virtual versions inspired by its Birkin bags.
As seen on Rothschild's Instagram, he creates digital art which is then sold as NFTs and the artworks show furry Birkin bags which he named "MetaBirkins". Citing the complaint, The Guardian said Hermès has accused Rothschild of "trying to profit from its trademarks", adding that the MetaBirkins brand "simply rips off Hermès' famous Birkin trademark by adding the generic prefix 'meta' to the famous trademark Birkin".
Meanwhile, Rothschild said in an Instagram statement that Hermès' claims are "groundless" and he looks forward to defeating those claims in court and helping to set a precedent.
"I am not creating or selling fake Birkin bags. I've made art works that depict imaginary, fur-covered Birkin bags," he said, adding that the First Amendment gives him the right to make and sell art that depicts Birkin bags, "just as it gave Andy Warhol the right to make and sell art depicting Campbell's soup cans".
"I have the right to also use the term 'MetaBirkins' to describe truthfully what that art depicts, and to comment artistically on those bags and on the Birkin brand," he added.
Rothschild also explained that the fact he sells the art using NFTs does not change the fact that it is art. "It's quite clear from reading Hermès's complaint that they don't understand what an NFT is, or what NFTs do," he added.
Rothschild first received a cease and desist letter from Hermès approximately four weeks ago and explained that MetaBirkins is "a playful abstraction of an existing fashion-culture landmark". He also explained in a previous Instagram post that he re-interpreted the form, materiality, and name of a known cultural touchpoint.
"MetaBirkins are also a commentary on fashion's history of animal cruelty, and its current embrace of fur-free initiatives and alternative textiles. When it comes to art, selling my MetaBirkins as NFTs is akin to selling them as physical art prints. It should not be my job to educate you on advancements in the world and the culture of art. Art is art," Rothschild added.
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