Tailor made: Levi Strauss & Co's IP strategy


Levi Strauss & Co. has been protecting its intellectual property for more than 100 years. WIPR asked Tom Onda, chief IP counsel, about the challenges of defending such an iconic brand.

In 1873, California gold miners faced a problem. While the pants they wore for work were made of a strong, durable denim, well-suited to the rigours of underground toil, the seams that held their pockets together were not.

Levi Strauss, a German immigrant with a dry goods business, and Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, thought they had the solution. US patent No. 139121 was one of the earliest US clothing patents; it covered copper rivets for strengthening the pockets of miners’ pants, thus creating the world’s first blue jeans. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tom Onda, chief IP counsel at the modernday Levi Strauss & Co., says the company’s IP portfolio looks very different now to how it looked in 1873. “We do have a small patent portfolio of manufacturing-related patents as well as some patents related to designs,” he says.

Levi, Strauss, counterfeit, trademark, protection, strategy