Louis Vuitton Accused of Passing Leather Scraps Off As Art

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Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Clint Arthur owns a company that sells gourmet butter to restaurants. He also collects fine art. Two years ago, he spent $12,000 (the butter business — who knew?) on two Takashi Murakami prints at the special Louis Vuitton boutique inside the Murakami exhibit at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art. At the time, he did not know that those prints merely consisted of the same material used to make the special handbags Murakami created for Louis Vuitton, which were also for sale. You know, purse scraps. So Arthur is taking Vuitton to court for fraud. He alleges that Vuitton did not disclose that the prints were made from scraps and had full intent to deceive their customers. Because who would drop $6,000 on them if they knew? Especially when the handbags being sold right next to them — which require considerably more craftsmanship to create — were selling for just $1,000.

Arthur sued Vuitton last June. The class-action case initially only alleged that both Vuitton and the museum had failed to provide the information about the prints required under California's Fine Prints Act. Arthur then accused Vuitton of fraud. A hearing will be held Monday. Vuitton has offered Arthur his money back, plus interest, for the prints, but Arthur refused it. He's on a die-hard mission to rid the world of art scams. Kind of like how Vuitton's on a die-hard mission to rid the world of counterfeit handbags. But! The unfailingly clever Vuitton argues that Arthur has no case because he should have known the prints he blew $12k on were made of handbag scraps, in part because the bags and prints looked the same. He should have known this, they say, even though they labeled the prints as "revisited," which means the artist has gone back and done something extra to the work. Murakami did not revisit the handbag scraps and gussy them up for Arthur and other customers.

If Arthur's case goes forward as a class action, Vuitton could have to fork over $12 million. But fear not for their piggy bank — they can easily pay for that with winnings from past trademark-infringement cases. They won $30.5 million alone in a landmark lawsuit against eBay last year.

Louis Vuitton suit adds fraud allegation [LAT]