Monday, May 17, 2010

Louis Vuitton Suit Update

There was a decision a couple of weeks ago on Louis Vuitton's motion for summary judgment in Clint Arthur's lawsuit over some prints he bought at a shop that was set up in connection with a Takashi Murakami exhibition at L.A. MOCA in 2008. The case survived, but large chunks of it were knocked out.

Arthur claimed the following statements by LV supported his claims of "fraud":
  • The prints are genuine Murakami artworks.
  • The prints are original artworks.
  • Murakami personally signed them.
And he claimed LV "concealed" these "material facts":
  • That the prints were made of the same material that LV had used to make handbags.
  • That Murakami "had no personal involvment" in making the prints.
  • That his signature was applied by someone else.
  • That the prints were "Louis Vuitton merchandise" rather than Murakami artworks.
The court dismissed all of these "amorphous" claims . . . with the single exception of the allegation that Murakami did not personally sign each print. (And that seemed to be more a question of putting in the right kind of proof than anything else.) But all the silly claims that it was somehow "fraudulent" to use leftover material from LV handbags to create these prints, or that they were somehow not works of art -- those are all now out of the case.

We're left, then, with a "gotcha" claim: that LV violated the technical requirements of the California Fine Prints Act. There really isn't any question that they did so. So Arthur is entitled to a refund; that's the remedy for a violation of the statute -- and Arthur could have had one at any point during this process. The only remaining issue would seem to be whether or not it's fair to charge LV -- not generally in the art gallery business -- with willfully violating what the LA Times called "an obscure chapter of the California Civil Code," such that Arthur (and, perhaps, anyone else who wants to trade in their print) is entitled to treble damages. So, at best, Arthur would be entitled to $18,000 per print instead of $6,000. It all seems so pointless to me.