Bagging Birkin Rights

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Published: August 1, 2015 12:21:19 AM

In the age of marketing and celebrityhood, a name is not to be treated lightly

“What’s in a name?”, Shakespeare asked, and for long, the sanctity of a name remained lightweight. But now, in the age of celebrities and marketing, names are no longer just names, because, among other things, they represent brands, too. However, charting these waters can be tricky, as yesteryear actress Jane Birkin may soon find out.

Birkin would sound familiar—at least to those who are fabulously rich—because of the eponymous range of high-end leather bags from Hermes, a Paris-based luxury accessories company. Birkin bags may cost as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, and were named so when Hermes’ CEO met the actress Birkin on a Paris-London flight in 1981, when the actress’s handbag spilled its contents on the aisle. To cut to chase, Hermes came out with a line of bags which became, according to one best-seller, “the world’s most coveted handbag”, and Birkin, as The Guardian reports, has been getting 30,000 pounds a year from Hermes which, she says, goes to charity.

Things, however, are not as hunky-dory now. Birkin has asked the French luxury house to “dechristen” Birkin Croco, a bag made out of crocodile/alligator skin, after PETA highlighted how some of Hermes’ suppliers were treating the animals with appalling cruelty . Meanwhile, PETA has been selling Virkin, a “vegan” bag, for $400 with 20% of the sales going to animal rights advocacy organisations. While Hermes has initiated a probe into the allegations, Birkin’s demand may not be tenable. Hermes owns the trademark now—the actress never executed a legal licensing. So, if you foresee yourself becoming famous,take a cue from football god David Beckham or actress Rihanna and trademark your name. Don’t do a Birkin.

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