Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

Birkin vs. MetaBirkins: When Art Inspiration Led To Legal Accusations The space of Non-Fungible Tokens is still a developing one, and Hermes International v. Rothschild will play a pivotal role in future developments

By Paromita Gupta

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


The space of Non-Fungible Tokens in recent times has seen an influx of digital assets and enthusiasts; however, it is still developing. The broad knowledge and features of NFTs have made it a quick sensation in the world of art, fashion, and sports.

However, there needs to be a proper legal route to protect the trademark, prevent the misappropriation of names, and creative artistic freedom.

And that is why the ongoing Hermes International v. Rothschild is going to be a landmark judgment on how trademark law will be applied to NFTs.

The case:

Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist and designer Mason Rothschild launched his 100 furry digital handbag collection 'MetaBirkins' in December 2021, a homage to Hermès' signature 'Birkin' collection. Furthermore, he states his inspiration was the French luxury design house's 'fur-free' initiatives and the adoption of alternate textiles. Each NFT had a starting price of 0.1 ETH (approx $450 at the time of release).

However, Hermès was quick to retaliate and slap Rothschild with a cease and desist letter in mid-December and with a trademark lawsuit in mid-January 2022. According to Reuters, MetaBirkins made $1 million in sales before OpenSea, and fellow marketplaces banned Rothschild and MetaBirkins.

The points of contention:

Hermès pointed out that 'MetaBirkins' simply rips off the luxury handbag's Birkin trademark and adds the generic prefix of 'meta'. "Meta" and "metaverse" refer to virtual worlds and economies where digital assets such as NFTs can be sold and traded," the lawsuit further added. Additionally, Rothschild was alleged to have made a fortune by marketing and selling virtual rights over Hermès rather than real-life rights. "Defendant has openly acknowledged that he elected to sell his NFTs as METABIRKINS because a BIRKIN handbag is a highly valuable asset in the physical world," the document shared.

Prominent brands such as Nike, Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louis, Adidas, Prada, Balenciaga, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren have entered the segment through various means. And MetaBirkins' deceptive origin may hinder customers, and Hermès plans to enter the NFT ecosystem.

Rothschild published a public response to the cease and desist letter and argued that the First Amendment protected his right to create art based on self-interpretation. "With that understanding, MetaBirkins is a playful abstraction of an existing fashion-culture landmark. I re-interpreted the form, materiality and name of a known cultural touchpoint. MetaBirkins are also a commentary on fashion's history of animal cruelty, and its current embrace of fur-free initiatives and alternative textiles. My aim is always to create additive art projects that contribute positively to the culture," read his December 23, 2021, Twitter post.

In May 2022, Rothschild filed a motion to dismiss the case, but his plea was rejected. Meanwhile, Hermès' plea for summary judgment in October 2022 was also denied.

The lawsuit moved to trial at US District Court for the Southern District of New York on January 30, 2023, and has been in and out of the courtroom for six days.

The jury is expected to give their verdict this week.

Paromita Gupta

Features Writer with Entrepreneur India

Covering news and trends in AI and Metaverse segments. An avid book reader running her personal blog on the side. You may reach me at paromita@entrepreneurindia.com. 
Business News

TikTok Reportedly Laid Off a 'Large Percentage' of Employees as the App's Fate in the U.S. Remains Unclear

Laid-off TikTok employees were notified Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

Business News

Four Seasons Orlando Responds to Viral TikTok: 'There's Something Here For All Ages'

The video has amassed over 45.4 million views on TikTok.


How to Break Free From the Cycle of Overthinking and Master Your Mind

Discover the true cost of negative thought loops — and practical strategies for nipping rumination in the bud.

Side Hustle

These Brothers Had 'No Income' When They Started a 'Low-Risk, High-Reward' Side Hustle to Chase a Big Dream — Now They've Surpassed $50 Million in Revenue

Sam Lewkowict, co-founder and CEO of men's grooming brand Black Wolf Nation, knows what it takes to harness the power of side gig for success.

Business News

More People Are Exploring Entrepreneurship Because of This Unexpected Reason

More new business applications were filed in 2023 than in any other year so far.