If you’ve ever had a pair of jeans from Levi’s, you would probably be familiar with the tiny tab on the back pocket that comes in red, blue or white while also indicating the company logo. Well, Levi’s has just positioned itself legally against Yves Saint Laurent America for supposedly infringing the particular trademark. On November 16, the former has approached Northern California’s District Court to prove that the latter company is touching on a signature that has been integral to the identity of Levi’s. While seemingly a big deal, this is not anything we have not seen before from the brand.
Levi’s traces the first use of the pocket tab in 1936, initially appearing on its manufactured overalls. It served the purpose of making its jeans distinct from the rest, which was not easy to do given the number of businesses competing neck and neck. The length of time it has been used makes the company bolder in pursuing legal action against any fashion house it suspects is imitating its trademarks. In the last three decades, it has filed up to 300 cases, with Vineyard Vines and Kenzo just two of the many that received cease and desist letters from Levi’s.
Levi’s complaint against Saint Laurent is hinged on the latter’s supposed infringement and dilution of the trademark, as well as unfair competition. According to the company, Saint Laurent putting tabs on the back pockets of its pants may lead to consumer confusion, and might unintentionally make buyers form an association between the two labels when it does not exist. If Levi’s proves infringement and deliberateness on the part of Saint Laurent, the court will have to insist that the luxury brand cease the production of the tab. Saint Laurent will also pay a hefty price that Levi’s demands for lost profit.
If you think that’s too much of an ask and that the justifications are a bit of a stretch, you are not alone; many have considered Levi’s to be a “trademark bully”. Before Saint Laurent, the latest suit has been against British company Barbour, with the points raised against them similar to what Levi’s has laid down for Saint Laurent. Barbour on its part has asserted that the suit is baseless, and that the pocket tab is not a strong a signature as Levi’s insists. With the significant difference in price points, it would also be difficult to confuse the companies with each other. Indeed, Barbour has yet to encounter such a case from a customer.
We still do not know the verdict for these cases, but the result will undoubtedly create an impact that will be felt in the industry. If Saint Laurent and the others win, Levi’s will have to rethink its stance that has led others to consider the brand litigious. Meanwhile, if Levi’s wins, companies would have to be wary of putting the tiny detail on their jeans.
Image credits: Getty Images, Zappos, Levi’s, Saint Laurent, Draper’s Online