Update 2/8/23: After over a year of litigation, Hérmes has won its lawsuit against the creator of the NFT project MetaBirkins, Mason Rothschild. The company was awarded $133,000 in damages and jurors found that the MetaBirkin NFTs were not art protected by the First Amendment. Additionally, Rothschild has released the following statement:
“Take nine people off the street right now and ask them to tell you what art is but the kicker is whatever they say will now become the undisputed truth. That’s what happened today.
A multibillion dollar luxury fashion house who says they “care” about art and artists but feel they have the right to choose what art IS and who IS an artist. Not because of what they create but because their CV doesn’t scream artist with a pedigree from a world class art school. That’s what happened today.
A broken justice system that doesn’t allow an art expert to speak on art but allows economists to speak on it. That’s what happened today.
What happened today was wrong. What happened today will continue to happen if we don’t continue to fight. This is far from over.”
Original 1/18/22: Things are getting messy in the metaverse. Over the holidays, artist Mason Rothschild posted an open letter on Instagram to address an alleged cease and desist sent to him by Hèrmes. The issue at hand? MetaBirkins, a collection of 100 virtual Birkin bag-inspired non-fungible tokens (aka NFTs or a blockchain's digital assets) that Rothschild created and launched for sale.
The Fashion Law has been doing an incredible job covering and keeping up with the saga from a legal perspective (yes, it's been going on for months). To recap, we broke down the main talking points and laid out how things escalated over the past year between the French luxury brand and the digital creator, which ended up in a lawsuit. We'll continue to update as more events unfold.
May 2021: Mason Rothschild Launches "Baby Birkin" NFT
Before the MetaBirkins went viral, Rothschild launched a single "Baby Birkin" NFT through a collaboration with Eric Ramirez, listed at the time as "an ironic nod to the iconic Birkin bag by Hèrmes." The NFT, which featured a 40-week-old fetus on top of the transparent (virtual) bag, was launched on the curated social and shopping platform Basic.Space and sold and then resold for just under 13 Etheruem (a form of cryptocurrency, second only to Bitcoin in market capitalization) which equals to about $23,500. The project did not face any pushback from Hèrmes.
November 2021: Mason Rothschild Launches "MetaBirkins" NFTs and Instagram Account
100 MetaBirkins are introduced and sold through the online marketplace OpenSea, each rendered in bright colors and faux fur and some with artworks like the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh's Starry Night. The rapper Future sings its praises online. But this time, Hèrmes makes their thoughts known. “These NFTs infringe upon the intellectual property and trademark rights of Hermès and are an example of fake Hermès products in the metaverse,” the company told the Financial Times.
December 2021: Mason Rothschild Addresses Alleged Cease and Desist Letter From Hèrmes
The artist takes to Instagram to respond to an alleged cease and desist he received from the French luxury brand. "The First Amendment gives me every right to create art based on my interpretations of the world around me," he wrote. "MetaBirkins is a playful abstraction of an existing fashion-culture landmark. I re-interpreted the form, materiality and name of a known cultural touchpoint." He also took issue with OpenSea removing MetaBirkins from its platform. For now, Rothschild is selling them on Rarible, another NFT marketplace.
January 2022: Hèrmes Sues MetaBirkins Creator Mason Rothschild
Hermès officially files a trademark infringement and dilution lawsuit against Mason Rothschild. In the complaint filed in a New York federal court on Friday, January 14, as reported by TFL, Hermès alleges that Rothschild is a "digital speculator who is seeking to get rich quick by appropriating the brand MetaBirkins for use in creating, marketing, selling, and facilitating the exchange of digital assets known as non-fungible tokens."
In response, Rothschild published an open letter on the MetaBirkins social media accounts, saying that the brand's claims are "groundless" and they he and his lawyer look forward to defeating them in court. See the full statement, below.
Photo via Rarible
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