Smith v. Chanel, Inc.
402 F.2d 562, (9th Cir. 1968)

  • Chanel made a popular, expensive perfume called “Number 5.” Smith started making perfume that smelled almost exactly the same, and started selling it a lot cheaper.
    • In addition, Smith wrote on the box that his perfume smelled just like Number 5.
  • Chanel sued.
    • Chanel couldn’t sue on the grounds that Smith had copied the ‘smell’ of their product, because perfume and fragrances were not copyrightable.
    • Chanel argued that Smith couldn’t openly advertise that they had made a copy of Chanel’s product, even if it was legal for them to actually make the copy.
  • The Court found for Smith.
    • The Court found that it was legal for Smith to claim in advertisements that its product was the equivalent of Chanel’s.
    • The Court found that, “disapproval of the copyist’s opportunism may be an understandable first reaction, but by taking a free ride, the copyist serves an important public interest by offering comparable goods at lower prices.”