French luxury group Hermes has started legal proceedings against a US artist over virtual versions inspired by its iconic Birkin bags.
Mason Rothschild creates digital art that he sells as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which can be traded online but ownership cannot be forged.
These have transformed digital items ranging from illustrations to memes into virtual collectors' items. He named the works depicting fanciful furry Birkin bags "MetaBirkins" and sold them on websites dedicated to selling NFTs.
Hermes accused Rothschild of trying to profit from its trademarks.
"Defendant's MetaBirkins brand simply rips off Hermes' famous Birkin trademark by adding the generic prefix 'meta' to the famous trademark Birkin," it said in its complaint filed on January 14 in New York, a copy of which AFP obtained.
Rothschild said in an online post that he wasn't creating or selling fake Birkin bags.
"I've made art works that depict imaginary, fur-covered Birkin bags," he said, adding as art it was freedom of expression protected by the US constitution.
"The fact that I sell the art using NFTs doesn't change the fact that it's art," he said.
Hermes declined to comment on a legal case under way when contacted by AFP.