13 June 2018Trademarks

Barbour dubs Levi Strauss TM bully in clash over tabs

UK-based luxury brand Barbour has called out jeans maker Levi Strauss over its “severe overreaching” in protecting the use of tabs on the back pocket of trousers.

In a complaint filed for declaratory judgment at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday, June 9, Barbour claimed that Levi Strauss has the “dubious distinction of being one of the world’s biggest trademark ‘bullies’”.

Levi Strauss owns a ‘tab device’ mark, which “consists of a textile marker or other material sewn into one of the regular structural seams of the garment”. The mark is used on Levi Strauss’s jeans and other clothing products.

The jeans maker is no stranger to protecting this mark—in April this year, it took on French luxury fashion house Kenzo over the use of tabs. And in May, Levi Strauss sued Italy-based menswear brand  Isaia Corp for infringement of the mark.

Barbour claimed that in May, it received a cease-and-desist letter from Levi Strauss which alleged that all garments with the Barbour flag were infringing products and that Barbour should stop selling these garments on a worldwide basis within ten days.

The Barbour flag is a piece of fabric bearing the Barbour name and is typically affixed to the seam of the pocket of the garment.

According to Barbour, the demand letter is a “classic example of severe overreaching by a company” and Levi Strauss’s allegations and legal assertions are “baseless and hopelessly flawed”.

“In fact, to plaintiffs’ knowledge, in all of the years that Barbour-branded products have been sold in the US—or anywhere in the world, for that matter—there has never been a single instance where a consumer or potential consumer has expressed any such confusion between Barbour products and those offered by Levi Strauss,” added the lawsuit.

Barbour went on to claim that Levi Strauss is one of the most litigious apparel companies in the US.

The claim said: “It has a well-deserved reputation as a trademark ‘bully’,” having filed more than 300 trademark lawsuits since 1989. It is infamous for suing companies over the ‘pocket tab’, the ‘arcuate’ stitching, and the leather patch, in which it claims to own rights.”

In its argument, Barbour said that the marketplace is “awash” with apparel and accessories featuring a tab or tab-like fabric and that the parties’ flags and tabs are plainly different.

Barbour is seeking a declaration of non-infringement and a permanent injunction stopping Levi Strauss from “interfering with or threatening to interfere with the use of the Barbour flag”.

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More on this story

15 June 2018   Jeans maker Levi Strauss has taken on UK-based luxury brand Barbour over the use of “tabs” on clothing pockets.
21 September 2018   US fashion brand Levi Strauss has taken on unknown entities for alleged trademark infringement and selling counterfeit products.
2 October 2018   Fashion brand Levi Strauss has taken on internet clothing shop Rip N Dip in a trademark infringement complaint relating to Levi Strauss’s ‘Tab device’.