A federal judge in the United States has given a permanent ban to a non-fungible token (NFT) maker from selling digital art collectibles based on Hermes’ iconic Birkin bags, thus concluding a prolonged court saga, as well as serving as a warning to NFT makers. Judge Jed Rakoff, who presided over the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered Mason Rothschild, the creator of the collection, and his associates to refrain from minting or selling MetaBirkins NFTs or using online domains linked with the collection. Judge Rakoff also reinforced the findings of a jury that Rothschild, the collection’s creator, attempted to deceive customers on the connection between his digital art pieces and Hermes’ luxury bags.
Judge Rakoff wrote, “As the jury expressly found, Rothschild, a self-described ‘marketing strategist,’ purposely sought (with some success) to confuse consumers into believing that his non-fungible tokens (‘NFTs’), labeled ‘MetaBirkins…’ were affiliated with Hermès’ iconic ‘Birkin’ trademarks. In effect, the jury found that Rothschild was simply a swindler.” The judge’s permanent injunction marks the final decision in the long-standing lawsuit. However, it is possible for Rothschild to appeal the ruling.
The MetaBirkins NFT collection, consisting of 100 digital art collectibles, attracted significant attention when it was launched in December 2021, generating over $1 million in sales, as reported by Reuters. However, in January 2022, French fashion house Hermès International sued the MetaBirkins NFT creator, alleging the California-based artist’s Birkin-inspired collection infringed on its intellectual property rights. In February, a jury ruled in favor of the handbag maker, awarding Hermès $133,000 in damages.
Rothschild’s loss serves as a warning to other creators in the underregulated NFT space, where intellectual property infringement is not entirely uncommon. In recent months, NFT analytics firm bitsCrunch flagged the popular NFT collection Coodles’ use of McDonald’s iconic golden arches logo. Additionally, last year, Nike sued sneaker reseller StockX for selling unauthorized images of its sneakers as NFTs.
Rothschild’s lawyer declined to comment on the ruling.