After a long 7 years Google rang the victory bell over a trademark lawsuit with LMVH (responsible for the Louis Vuitton brand) this past Tuesday, March 23. Ever since this lawsuit caught my eye a while back I have been pondering why they decided to take this approach instead of doing the obvious: online reputation management.
In case you’re not up-to-speed on the case, here’s a quick overview.
In 2003 LMVH sued Google in French courts and eventually won in 2005. This led to Google paying over $400,000 USD for trademark infringement. LMVH’s beef was with ads selling Louis Vuitton replicas being shown when someone Googled “Louis Vuitton”. They were choked that Google would be selling the Louis Vuitton trademark to third parties – specifically websites selling counterfeits.
Google then took the case to the European Union’s highest courts where the battle continued for another 5 years until the ruling was made this past Tuesday, March 23 in Google’s favor. The courts stated that Google had not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords matching competitors’ trademarks.
Will the Real LV Please Stand Up
When I search for Loius Vuitton on Google (in British Columbia, Canada), one search result is for the authentic Louis Vuitton site, one is a Wikipedia entry for Louis Vuitton, and the other 8 are selling Louis Vuitton replicas.
So why is LMVH getting their knickers in a twist over ads when the search results are clearly dominated by people selling replicas? If anything, these search results most likely have a higher clickthrough rate then any AdWords campaign.
Money Well Spent?
How much do you think LMVH has paid in legal fees these past 7 years? Wouldn't they have been better off tackling an aggressive online reputation management campaign with that money? There are professionals out there that specialize in this type of thing you know.
Yes a lot of people sell Louis Vuitton replicas. But a lot of people also sell Chanel knockoffs and they seem to be doing pretty well in the SERPs. When I Googled "Chanel" only one knockoff company showed up in the results. So it is possible for the Louis Vuitton brand to do the same thing. Yes it can be costly, but it can’t be more than they’ve paid for a 7 year battle with Google in the courts.
What They Should Do
The following are some online reputation tactics that Louis Vuitton can benefit from. Since they can not control AdWords results, they can at least try to reclaim back organic search results for their name.
Only two pages from a domain can rank in the search results, however, search engines treat subdomains as unique websites. By developing content on subdomains, Louis Vuitton can have multiple sites that rank for their domain name. A blog, for example, can be one example of a subdomain.
Louis Vuitton has a couple of options for new domains they can build up through link building methods. They are involved with nautical events and hold the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series and the Louis Vuitton Cup. They also hold the Louis Vuitton Classic for automobile collectors every year. Those are two separate sites that would work well.
Then there is Espace Louis Vuitton. It produces and hosts three exhibitions per year, around the themes of travel, heritage, art and fashion. It is a popular attraction that attracts more than 10 000 visitors for each exhibition. Once again, they have another opportunity here to create a branded website.
Affiliations & Distribution
Currently only Louis Vuitton stores are authorized to sell their products. What if they follow suit with other successful luxury brands and find high-end stores to officially sell their brand?
With this method they can create landing pages on sites that distribute their products and help along with link building. Although it may take away from their exclusivity, it will also prevent them from being overtaken by replicas in search results. They have proven that they obviously care about their online presence by taking Google to court in the first place.
Louis Vuitton can also benefit from doing a little social networking. Like creating a Twitter account (and hiring someone to run it properly), or putting some of their fashion show clips up on YouTube. Outspoken Media has a thorough Online Reputation Management Guide that covers all the angles of the social media approach.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But it is a small price to pay for Louis Vuitton to take over search results currently dominated by fakes. It will also most likely have a better ROI then taking Google to court.