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Court won't muzzle company's use of 'Chewy Vuiton' on dog toys

By The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Louis Vuitton claimed a Las Vegas company infringed on the luxury handbag maker's trademark with its furry "Chewy Vuiton" dog toys, but a federal appeals court refused to bite.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling that Haute Diggity Dog's toys, complete with their multicolored symbols, were a successful parody of the products from the French fashion company.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote that "the juxtaposition of the similar and dissimilar — the irreverent representation and the idealized image of an LVM handbag — immediately conveys a joking and amusing parody. The furry little 'Chewy Vuiton' imitation, as something to be chewed by a dog, pokes fun at the elegance and expensiveness of a LOUIS VUITTON handbag, which must not be chewed by a dog."

Niemeyer, who was joined in the Nov. 13 ruling by Judges William B. Traxler Jr. and Samuel G. Wilson, said the parody is enhanced by similar products made by the company, including "Chewnel No. 5," ''Furcedes" and "Sniffany & Co." The products, including beds, bags, jeweled collars and other accessories, have been featured on television and in magazines.

Louis Vuitton sued Haute Diggity Dog, its principal owner Victoria Dauernheim, and retailer Woofie's Pet Boutique in Ashburn, Va., in 2006 for trademark, trade dress and copyright infringement.

Louis Vuitton, which also makes some of its own pet products, argued the toy company's marketing and sale of the "Chewy Vuiton" product infringed on its trademarks because the toys are likely to cause confusion. The handbag maker said the dog products use the same geometric symbols and color combinations as its products.

Louis Vuitton said it was disappointed by the decision in Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Haute Diggity Dog, saying the court failed to give the company the protection it deserved under law.

"We believe the court misapplied the law of parody, which is designed to protect freedom of speech, but not to allow infringers to make money by exploiting the good name and famous trademarks of a company such as Louis Vuitton," the company said in a statement.

Pamela Reeder, co-owner of Haute Diggity Dog, said she was relieved by the outcome of the case, which has cost more than $300,000 in legal fees for the company that started in her guest bedroom in August 2004.

"Obviously we're thrilled," Reeder said. "It was a big weight on us and a big worry."

Reeder said she was surprised by the lawsuit because the company was very careful when designing the products to make sure it was a parody. Marc Jacobs, the artistic director for Louis Vuitton, had even purchased the company's "Bark Jacobs" dog toy to sell at his own boutiques, Reeder said.


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