For the second time in the past year, Hollywood has run into trouble over luxury luggage knockoffs.
This time, Marvel is being sued for the way it has packaged The Avengers box set. A German manufacturer of luxury travel briefcases has taken Marvel and owner Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment into federal court in California over its attaché case products, which are prized by the company "for being impervious to the elements and being virtually indestructible."
Well, maybe not totally indestructible. Rimowa GmbH, the plaintiff, claims Marvel has damaged the trademarks on its carrying case.
The lawsuit follows the dispute between Louis Vuitton and Warner Bros. over a knockoff handbag that was used in The Hangover Part II. In that case, the French fashion house said that within the film, a Chinese fake was used briefly in one scene and that it had hurt its brand. A judge dismissed the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds; it's currently on appeal.
Rimowa says its Topas attaché case was used by Samuel L. Jackson's character Nick Fury in The Avengers as a repository of dossiers on the various superheroes. Unlike what happened in Hangover II, Marvel was provided with the genuine product, and the German company says it has no issue with the way it was used in the movie.
"However, Marvel did not obtain any license or authorization from Rimowa to make replica copies of the cases for any purpose," says the plaintiff in the new lawsuit.
Specifically, the defendants are accused of marketing and advertising a product called Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One -- Avengers Assembled Box Set for shipment starting Sept. 25. Marvel's marketing materials indicate the product will consist of the Blu-ray versions of The Avengers and several other Marvel superhero pictures and bonus discs.
According to the complaint, "Images of the replica briefcase on Marvel's advertising materials, and fan video from Marvel's product display at this year's Comic-Con convention, show the plastic 'replica case' to be a close copy of Rimowa's Topas attaché case in every respect but quality -- from the proportions and coloring, to the style of the handle and latches, and, of course, in the use of the trademarked parallel ridges around the body of the case."
Rimowa is alleging trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition and is seeking to enjoin Marvel from further infringement. The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial, all profits from allegedly unlawful conduct and an award of three times plaintiff's actual damages to be proved. The company's lawyer is Anjani Mandavia.
Marvel has yet to respond to a request for comment.
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner