In what would have been the greatest irony of ironies, PIPG nearly found itself in the midst of a trademark suit in 2012. Thankfully, with the help of our university’s associate general counsel, Penn Law was able to avoid the legal crosshair of a fashion heavyweight.
Said associate general counsel, Robert F. Firestone, gave a talk at PIPG’s first major event of the academic year last Wednesday, Oct. 21. Firestone prefaced the event with some exposition of the facts of the contentious situation: Louis Vuitton sent Penn Law a cease-and-desist letter over a flyer advertising PIPG’s annual symposium. Because the flyer used Louis Vuitton’s signature Toile Monogram pattern, the fashion corporation claimed that this was unauthorized use of its trademark. The issue was brought forth to Firestone, who sent off a reply effectively stating that the parodic design on PIPG’s flyer did not constitute infringement. Not only did any possibility of a lawsuit quickly evaporate, but Louis Vuitton’s president also issued Penn an apology on behalf of his company.
In his talk about the case that never was, Firestone emphasized the power of social media, which brought such wide, immediate awareness of the issue on the internet. For Firestone, the Louis Vuitton issue was business as usual — just another matter to deal with at work, no different from the numerous other cases he deals with on a regular basis. The fact that this particular situation — and, in particular, his own response to Louis Vuitton — went viral came as a great surprise to him. Firestone stressed to students that social media can become a clever PR strategy for attorneys involved in IP law and/or in-house matters. PIPG’s brief skirmish with Louis Vuitton further attested to the fact that in this digital day and age, the content we post on online platforms can quickly reach the ears (or perhaps more appropriately, the computer and phone screens) of netizens all over the world.