French luxury group Hermès has started legal proceedings against an American artist over virtual versions inspired by its famous Birkin bags.
Mason Rothschild creates digital art that he sells as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which can be traded online but ownership cannot be forged.
He named the works depicting fanciful furry Birkin bags “MetaBirkins” and sold them on websites dedicated to selling NFTs.
Hermès accused Rothschild of trying to profit from its trademarks.
“Defendant’s MetaBirkins brand simply rips off Hermès’ famous Birkin trademark by adding the generic prefix ‘meta’ to the famous trademark Birkin,” it said in its complaint filed in New York.
Rothschild said in an online post that he was not creating or selling fake Birkin bags.
“I’ve made art works that depict imaginary, fur-covered Birkin bags,” he said, adding that as art it was freedom of expression protected by the US constitution, “just as it gave Andy Warhol the right to make and sell art depicting Campbell’s soup cans”.
“The fact that I sell the art using NFTs doesn’t change the fact that it’s art,” Rothschild said.
Hermès has declined to comment on a legal case under way.