By: Samuel Haig
Jury Finds Mason Rothschild To Be ‘Simply A Swindler’
A U.S. court has sided with French luxury fashion house Hermes, granting a permanent injunction against the MetaBirkin NFT collection for copyright violations.
Court documents showed an eight-person civil jury delivered a unanimous verdict against the MetaBirkins’ creator, Sonny Estival, also known as Mason Rothschild, on June 23.
MetaBirkins is a collection of 100 NFTs created by Rothschild that depict furry handbags in the style of Hermes’ Birkin bags. The collection is estimated to have driven more than $1M in trades.
Judge Jed Rakoff offered a skeptical appraisal of Rothschild’s defense against the suit, where he claimed the NFTs comprise an absurdist parody of luxury goods and, as such, constitute free speech protected by the First Amendment.
“[The] defendant’s entire scheme here was to defraud consumers into believing, by his use of variations on Hermes’ trademarks, that Hermes was endorsing his lucrative MetaBirkins NFTs,“ Judge Rakoff said. “The jury found that Rothschild was simply a swindler… Nothing in the First Amendment insulated him from liability for such a scheme.”
The order blocks Rothschild from marketing, selling, or minting MetaBirkins NFTs and requires control over the metabirkins.com domain name to be transferred to Hermes. Judge Rakoff also rejected Rothschild’s requests for the court to dismiss the verdict or hold a new trial.
The case could set an important precedent for future lawsuits dealing with alleged trademark infringement in a web3 context. In February 2022, Nike filed a lawsuit against StockX, a shoe reseller, for offering NFTs it says are unauthorized recreations of its sneakers.
The MetaBirkins dispute began in January when Hermes accused Rothschild of improperly using its Birkin trademark to mislead customers into believing the brand supported the project. Hermes filed its complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The court ruled that Rothschild violated Hermes’ trademark the following month and ordered the artist to pay $133,000 in damages. Hermes requested an injunction in March, accusing Rothschild of continuing to promote the sale of MetaBirkins NFTs to generate royalties.