Air Fresh’s trees are iconic. They’re a mainstay of the automotive industry and are instantly recognizable, so when Balenciaga came out with an air freshener shaped like a pine tree, it was no surprise that a lawsuit soon followed. TMZ reported that The Car-Freshner Corporation has filed suit against Balenciaga for using their copyrighted design without permission to create their new keychain. That copyright has been held by the company since 1952, so if it does turn out that Balenciaga didn’t seek or get approval, it’s a pretty glaring oversight.
Car-Freshner is seeking all profits made from the keychain, saying the stolen design will confuse customers. You could make the argument that there’s not much chance of confusing the two. One is an air freshener and the other a keychain. The air fresheners are made of paper while the key chains are leather. Even more obvious would be the difference in price. Little Tree air fresheners sell for $3; the key chains sell for $275.
This isn’t new territory for Balenciaga. They were recently sued by New York City souvenir company City Merchandise for Balenciaga’s multicoloured New York Bazar Shopper. Given Balenciaga’s penchant for taking everyday items and turning them into haut couture, this might not be the last time they get sued either.