The red tabs on the pockets of Levi Strauss (Levi’s) jeans are the company’s trademark — and they are willing to sue to protect it. Levi’s recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) alleging that the American branch of the fashion designer is running afoul of intellectual property law by causing confusion among consumers with its own jean tabs.
Since 1936, Levi Strauss has attached little red, blue or white tabs bearing the company’s names on various items of clothing that it sells. Levi’s has registered and maintains several trademarks for the “Tab Device Trademark” that it uses on its clothing, and it has filed several lawsuits against numerous brands such as Vineyard Vines, Kenzo, and Barbour to enforce these registrations.
Indeed, now that some YSL jeans have appeared on the fashion scene with small tabs attached to the pockets, Levi’s claims that YSL’s use of the tabs could cause consumers to believe YSL and Levi’s have a relationship or simply confuse consumers as to the source of the products. Trademarks, of course, are intended to protect consumers from this type of confusion by making it easy for consumers to easily distinguish between the products of different companies and identify the source of the goods or services.
Levi’s further alleges that YSL has acted with “willfulness, wantonness, malice, and conscious indifference” to Levi’s rights, all while diluting its trademark and damaging its goodwill. Levi’s is requesting an injunction and treble damages.
Some of the issues that the Northern District of California will consider in its analysis is how similar the tabs are and the likelihood of confusion among consumers. The fact that the two companies arguably operate in different markets and offer goods at markedly different price ranges could lean in favor of YSL.
The Levi’s tab has been on their denim products for over 80 years, but whether the court agrees that the YSL tabs rise to the level of trademark infringement remains to be seen.
In any event, Levi’s offers a good lesson to all businesses interested in protecting their intellectual property, which is stay vigilant in policing your trademarks and take action when necessary.
If you’d like to learn more about how to protect your copyrights, trademarks, and patents, please contact attorney Munachi Nsofer.