The French luxury house, Hermès, is suing the creator of a line of one hundred digital handbags named "MetaBirkins".
The creator, Mason Rothschild, has designed 100 handbags resembling the iconic Hermès Birkin handbag, but covered in fur and, importantly, only in existence virtually as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Rothschild started selling NFTs of the MetaBirkins in December last year, and the first sold for $42,000. Later that month the 100 MetaBirkin NFTs had an accumulated value of nearly $450,000.
Hermès has filed a 47-page complaint with the New York's Southern District Court, stating that Rothschild “rips off Hermès’ famous Birkin trademark by adding the generic prefix ‘meta’ " and saying "There can be no doubt that this success arises from his confusing and dilutive use of Hermès’ famous trademarks.” Hermès is seeking injunctive relief, asking that the Court require Rothschild to cease his activity, and pay his profits over as damages. They also want him to surrender the MetaBirkins.com domain name.
Rothschild claims his activities are protected by the First Amendment (guaranteeing freedom of speech), with the MetaBirkins being simply a “playful abstraction of an existing fashion-culture landmark.”
Commercial activity in the digital space continues to heat up across the world. In the UK, in January Selfridges started selling NFTs of digital Paco Rabanne dresses, and last year Burberry announced the release of its own range of NFTs for electronic game characters and accessories. There is no doubt that the world will be watching Hermès' case with interest, with important issues thrown into the spotlight such as how trademarks of real-life items will be enforced in the digital world, and the implications for the owners of MetaBirkin NFTs if Hermès is successful in its case against Rothschild.