Luxury fashion brand Hermes has emerged victorious in its lawsuit against Mason Rothschild, the digital artist behind the MetaBirkin NFTs.
Hermes International SA persuaded a federal jury in Manhattan that Rothschild’s MetaBirkin NFTs infringed on the luxury company’s rights to the “Birkin” trademark.
On Feb. 8, the jury awarded Hermes $133,000 in damages. It also affirmed that Rothschild’s NFTs did not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment.
Throughout the trial, Rothschild maintained that his NFTs were works of art covered by the First Amendment. According to his lawyer, the MetaBirkin project was an “artistic experiment” examining how society values status symbols.
However, the jury concluded that non-fungible tokens are more closely related to consumer goods protected by stringent trademark regulations that discourage imitators from profiting from popular brands.
Case sets legal precedents for NFTs
The Hermes v. Rothschild case establishes an important precedent for non-fungible token creators and the framework for intellectual property (IP) law concerning digital art.
The verdict means that in the future, digital creators like Rothschild will have to be more cautious when creating NFTs with the likeness of other brands to avoid such lawsuits.
Rothschild’s MetaBirkins are 100 digital representations of Hermes’ famous Birkin bags. The NFTs have the same appearance as their physical counterparts, though the digital versions are covered in colorful, cartoonish fur.
Rothschild initially positioned the collection as a digital tribute to the Hermes bags but later clarified on his website that the NFTs were not associated with the luxury brand.
NFT artist accused of trademark infringement
The disclaimer wasn’t enough for the luxury company, which is notoriously protective of its Birkin brand, causing it to write a cease-and-desist letter to the artist.
However, after Rothschild appeared unwilling to meet the demands in Hermes’ letter, the company filed the precedent-setting suit against the NFT artist in a New York federal court on Jan. 14, 2022.
Hermes accused Rothschild of trademark infringement, injury to business reputation, and trademark dilution, among other complaints falling under the New York General Business Law.
Hermes also sought monetary damages, including any profit Rothschild may have made from selling the MetaBirkin NFTs. Furthermore, the luxury company sought an injunction barring the MetaBirkin creator from using any of Hermes’ trademarks in the future.