11 April 2018

Levi Straus hits Kenzo with Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

Levi Strauss accuses fashion designer Kenzo of red tab trademark infringement

By Dr David Cowan

Levi protecting the red tab Shutterstock

Levi Strauss has lived up to its reputation for being litigious by hitting fashion designer Kenzo with a trademark infringement lawsuit. According to the denim-maker’s complaint, filed in federal court in San Francisco, Kenzo allegedly uses Levi’s federally-protected red pocket tab on an array of Kenzo garments, including those in a recently-released collection fronted by pop star Britney Spears.

Sight identification

In its complaint, Levi explains it began using its little red tab in 1936 “to provide ‘sight identification’ of [Levi]’s products.” The complaint states ever since, “that ‘no other maker of overalls can have any other purpose in putting a colored tab on an outside patch pocket, unless for the express and sole purpose of copying our mark, and confusing the customer.’” Levi Strauss has accumulated trademark registrations for the various tabs used on its jeans, though not all specify the colour red. Kenzo has made use of small white pocket tabs with the brand name "Kenzo."

Cease and desist

Levi’s raised the alleged trademark infringement with Kenzo and sent multiple cease and desist letters, claiming that Kenzo’s use of the tab threatens to create confusion amongst consumers as to the source of the Kenzo denim and to “cause incalculable and irreparable damage to [Levi’s] goodwill.” The firm claims that Kenzo’s “conduct is aggravated by … willfulness, wantonness, malice, and conscious indifference.” The court is being asked to order Kenzo to cease use of the cloth tab immediately and will be asked to award an unspecified amount of monetary damages to be determined at trial.

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