Remember MetaBirkin? The infamous ‘Not your mother’s Birkin’ digital rendition of the iconic handbag is back in the headlines once more – and now, the drama is heating up.
Last year, the world of luxury watched in shock as the usually unvocal French label Hermès posted a cease and desist to NFT creator Mason Rothschild over his NFT, the MetaBirkin. Created in collaboration with artist Eric Ramirez, the non-fungible token, designed in the form of a fuzzy, flamboyant Birkin bag, was an instant hit with collections – selling for USD $47,000 instantly after its release. The sale sparked the beginning of a sticky saga for Rothschild, who went on to launch the ‘MetaBirkins’ series, consisting of not one, but one HUNDRED kaleidoscopic NFT bags, all in the image of an Hermès Birkin.
Whilst the NFT proved an instant success online and across the wider industry, the digital piece’s IRL doppelganger’s label did resonate with the internet’s admiration. Quickly arming themselves with a corporate battalion, Hermès were quick to lay down the law with Rothschild, suing him for trademark infringements and arguing that his digital creation ‘diluted’ and cheapened the Birkin legacy. When CULTED reported on the heat last January on TikTok however, commenters at the time expressed conflicting feelings. One person expressed their support for the historic French house, stating “hermes does all the work to popularise the bag and then you’re mad when they come for u lol” (@hunterwagenaar); whilst @a.mle19 made the point that “nah this acc is in the wrong, this guy is using the name “birkin” which has been popularised by Hermès. no one would care if it wasn’t”. And whilst there were a handful of viewers called for Hermès to leave the artist alone, the majority of comments were more focused on the point of it all, with @alexpfitzgerald bluntly stating “Would love for someone to explain how these are at all interesting (but please don’t because they’re not)”.
Now, The infamous Hermès vs MetaBirkin saga has taken a new turn, as the ultra-luxe leather goods company and NFT creator Rothschild are set to take the beef to trial. The arguments from both sides were laid out, plain and clear – Rothschild referred to the US Constitution and countered Hermès’ accusations of trademark infringements by stating that NFTs are a ‘protected form of art’. And whilst that’s all well and good for us simple folk to understand, US District Judge Jed Rakoff was not so easily appeased. In a ruling that filled just one page, Rakoff rejected both sides’ requests to move to a summary judgement (in which the court decides there are no questions about the facts or law and instead concludes the case’s verdict based on the arguments made in the court papers submitted) and instead stated that he would be releasing an explanation for the decision by 20th Jan, 2022.
In the meantime, luxury fans and digital creators alike watch eagerly at the sidelines, as the future of NFT vs Brand law hangs in the balance. Many members of the digital art community question how the decision will alter the fashion NFT landscape, and whether it will affect the ‘constitutional right’ and creative freedom of artists – whilst luxury leaders maintain that ripping off a brand is no-go territory. More to come as the trial unfolds.
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