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Hermes Wins US Trademark ‘MetaBirkin’ NFT Lawsuit

A Manhattan federal jury found on Wednesday that an artist’s token non-fungible versions of Hermès’ famous Birkin bags violated the French fashion house’s trademark rights.

In one of the first intellectual property lawsuits over popular digital tokens known as NFTs, the jury found that artist Mason Rothschild’s unauthorized “MetaBirkins” were likely to confuse consumers.

The jury awarded Hermes $133,000 in damages for trademark infringement, dilution and cybersquatting, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has upheld.

Rothschild attorney Rhett Millsaps called the result “a terrible day for artists and the First Amendment.” Representatives for Hermès did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case has been closely watched for its potential to clarify how trademark law will apply to NFTs, which are unique tokens on blockchain networks often used to verify ownership of digital art.

Hermès’ prized leather Birkin handbags typically sell for tens of thousands of dollars each. The company has sold more than $1 billion worth of Birkins in the United States, including more than $100 million in the last ten years, according to a court document.

The fashion house sued Rothschild last year over its MetaBirkins, 100 NFTs associated with images depicting the bags covered in colored fur.

Hermès, in its lawsuit, called Rothschild a “digital speculator” and NFTs a “get-rich-quick” scheme. He said Rothschild began offering NFTs at the Art Basel art fair in Miami in December 2021, and more than $1 million of them had been traded by early the following month.

The luxury house has its own plans for NFTs that Rothschild obstructed, it said in a court filing.

Rothschild, whose legal name is Sonny Estival, argued that the works are an absurd statement about luxury goods and immune from trial based on First Amendment protections for art.

Top image caption: A photo of the artist’s MetaBirkins.

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