August 22, 2003
Birkin Bag Pattern Piracy, or Satire?

Steven Wu/Lawmeme and Martin Schwimmer/TrademarkBlog take a peek at the Hermes controversy. The Ginia Bellafante/NYTimes article, A 'Satire' of a Classic Fails to Amuse The August House of Hermès, is reprinted here (htm). The Birkin may be desirable, or was in an old Sex and the City episode, but the rubber knock-off is all the rage. I saw them all over New York last week, even though the NYTimes article says that Bendel's decided not to reorder after the lawyers got involved. This does bring up interesting questions about what is a parody, or satire, and what is just a rip-off. The translucent rubber knock-off/satire costs around $150, verses the $6,000 to $80,000 Hermes leather or crocodile version. There's a jellyKelly too, that is really just the rubber Birkin, but named after the Hermes Kelly bag (and Grace Kelly).

Hermes claims "If everyone on Madison Avenue has a fake Kelly or Birkin, it dilutes the exclusiveness of the brand". It really seems unlikely. I don't really see the $150 purse market as much of a threat for diluting the Hermes brand (as much as say, opening too many stores and selling too much to the masses as some luxury brands have done recently, diluting themselves without the help of knock-offs), and there was a huge difference between the rubber bags women were carrying for summer fun, verses the Hermes version, which resides at the other end of the fashion stratosphere. I kept laughing when I saw them, because they were so funny. Has Hermes seen the jellyKelly in person? Maybe if everyone on Madison Ave has a jellyKelly, it just means that people are making fun of the exclusivity of Hermes, or those on the waitlist for years still wanting a Birkin, or otherwise spend enormous amounts of money on themselves while so many others are in bad straights due to a difficult economy. Hermes might take a look at the Standards for Satire.... Not a legal definition but helpful in understanding the practical sense of this issue.

Posted by Mary Hodder at August 22, 2003 09:35 AM | TrackBack
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