NFT: Hermès wins another conviction against crypto-artist Mason Rotchschild

A Manhattan federal judge has ordered Mason Rotchschild to stop promoting and selling its NFT Metabirkins, fungible tokens inspired by Hermès’ famous Birkin bag. By upholding an earlier ruling, the New York court has reassured luxury brands.

 

A question of big money, not art…

 

That’s how we might sum up Judge Jed Rakoff’s latest decision in the case between Hermès and crypto-artist Mason Rotchschild.

 

The Manhattan federal judge has once again ruled in favor of the French luxury house, which had been opposing Mason Rotchschild’s sale of 100 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) dubbed “MetaBirkin” since last year. These were associated with images of the saddler’s famous Birkin bag, covered by the artist in colorful fur.

 

NFTs, it should be remembered, are unique tokens used on blockchain networks to, in this case, authenticate digital works of art.

 

However, the luxury house had little taste for Mason Rotchschild’s talent and sued him in New York.

 

Freedom of expression

 

The artist, for his part, pleaded for the right to freedom of expression and his right as an artist. He bitterly criticized the attitude of Hermès, “a billion-dollar company” that says it “cares about art and artists,” but “thinks it has the right to choose what art is and what an artist is.”

 

He had also presented his work as an illustration of the absurdity of the luxury world, and compared his approach to that of Andy Wharol, who had delivered the “pop” portrait of soups to the Campbell brand with the success we know. And without the brand complaining. The value of a can of soup, however, is not the same as that of a Birkin bag…

 

Mason Rotchschild’s comments did not move Hermès, which saw in him only a “digital speculator” and in his NFTs a “get-rich-quick scheme” giving the false impression that the fashion house approved of them, and not respecting the rights of its “Birkin” brand…

 

133,000 dollars in damages

 

Back in February, a Manhattan jury found in favor of Hermès, ordering the artist to pay $133,000 in damages (around 122,125 euros).

 

But the saddler renewed his complaint a month later, after noting that Mason Rothschild continued “to promote sales of MetaBirkins NFTs via various social networks”, with, as a result, “royalties for sales of this type.” The saddler sought a halt to these sales, and the return of remaining tokens and revenue from pre-suit sales.

 

Mason Rothschild countered that Hermès’ request went “far beyond what is appropriate in a case like this, which is about free speech.”

 

But the federal judge disagreed. In a new decision, Jed Rakoff ruled that the designer could no longer promote and sell his Metabirkins NFTs.

 

Misleading consumers

 

“The defendant’s strategy was to mislead consumers into believing, with his variations on Hermès trademarks, that Hermès approved his MetaBirkin NFTs,” emphasized Jed Rakoff in his judgment.

 

The jurisprudence of the Hermès/Rotchschild case will be a landmark in bringing order to the Wild West of NFTs. And reassuring luxury brands on the subject…

 

 

Read also > Hermès trial: towards a jurisprudence on NFTs?

 

Featured photo : © Instagram

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Sophie Michentef
Sophie Michentef has worked for more than 30 years in the professional press. For fifteen years, she managed the French and international editorial staff of the Journal du Textile. She now puts her press, textile, fashion, and luxury expertise at the service of newspapers, professional organizations, and companies.

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