Louis Vuitton sues Danish artist Plesner in the Netherlands over depiction of bag in art work

darfurnica4Danish artist Nadia Plesner is studying at the Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands. One of Plesner’s works of art, Darfurnica (see picture on the left), is modeled after Picasso’s Guernica and expresses the artist’s surprise at the attention that is paid to nondescript celebrities like Paris Hilton, while humanitarian disasters like those in Darfur remain rather unnoticed. In the middle of the painting an African child is depicted, holding a bag. Louis Vuitton is of the view that the pattern of this bag infringes its design rights.

As it now appears, Louis Vuitton has obtained an ex parte order (in Dutch) against Plesner from the Court of The Hague in preliminary relief proceedings. For non-lawyers: ex parte means that Plesner has not been heard by the court and has therefore been unable to bring forward a defense. She only became aware of this order when a bailiff served the decision on her. On pain of a penalty of EUR 5000 per day (without a maximum), Nadia Plesner is prohibited, inter alia, from showing or exhibiting her painting in the European Union. She is also prohibited from showing the painting on her website.

The boy concerned was also depicted before by Plesner in a freestanding work of art, at which Louis Vuitton also took offense: Louis Vuitton obtained an ex parte order against Plesner in France. On that occasion Plesner did not bring forward a defense against this order, because it looked like Louis Vuitton would leave it at that. This time Plesner will defend herself against this unacceptable infringement of her freedom of expression and artistic freedom. To be continued.

Update 11 March: an English translation of the court order can be found here.

Update 15 March: Nadia will start summary proceedings against Louis Vuitton to have the court order against her lifted. The court hearing will take place on March 30, at 14:00 h CET, at the court of The Hague.

Update 29 March: The injunction hearing has been postponed to April 20st due to a challenge of the presiding judge. After a hearing on March 28, the challenge will be discussed anew on a second hearing on April 4.

Update 30 March: The judge has decided to step down. A new judge has been appointed to take over the hearing on April 20.

Nadia Plesner is represented by Christien Wildeman and Jens van den Brink.