That is the question; in a dispute that has arisen between the British luxury fashion brand Barbour and the iconic denim brand Levi’s over both brands small signature tabs that are sewn into the seams of various garments produced by the brands.
Over the years Levi’s has been known to take a very aggressive stance in trying to prevent brands from using small tabs on garments that are similar to the little red, white or blue tabs with Levi’s name on it found stitched into the right seam of the brand’s jeans back pocket. Levi’s have US trade mark protection for this feature and has reportedly sent a “cease and desist” letter to Barbour requiring them to stop infringing their trade mark. In an aggressive response Barbour has issued a complaint in the New York Federal Court against Levi’s referencing the use of tabs in their designs by a number of other well-known fashion brands including, Vans, Carhartt, H & M and Volcom. Barbour has gone so far to call Levi’s “one of the most litigious apparel companies in the US, if not the world” and a “trademark bully” noting that over the years Levi has taken legal action against hundreds of other fashion brands with similar complaints.
We will wait to see in the upcoming months how this battle further develops.
Trade marks for items such as the Levi tab are unusual but not unheard of. There are a number of different types of trade mark protection that brands have been increasingly looking to invest in order to give them a competitive edge, particularly in the fast moving, highly-competitive fashion industry. Examples include Christian Louboutin’s “red sole” shape mark and Adidas’ three stripe trade mark.
If there are particular elements of your brand’s identity that you are concerned to make sure competitors do not copy it is worthwhile investigating how intellectual property protection could be applied to protect your brand and its unique aspects.
Briffa advises on all aspects of contentious and non-contentious trade mark law and practice. We offer free 30-minute consultations to all new clients. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7288 6003 if you would like to set up a call or a meeting.