Saint Laurent is the latest brand to be targeted by the overly litigious Levi Strauss. The American denim brand has filed suit against the American arm of the Paris-based fashion house, alleging that it has “manufactured, promoted, and sold garments that infringe and dilute Levi’s trademarks,” namely, its pocket tab, “the little red, or white, or blue tab that bears the company’s name and is stitched into the right seam of the back pocket” of its denim.
Levi’s alleges in a new lawsuit filed last week in a California federal court that it developed and has used the pocket tab since in 1936 in order to provide “sight identification of its products in a crowded denim market.” Fast forward 82 years and Levi’s maintains an arsenal of trademark registrations for the various tabs it uses on its jeans, and it is active in enforcing them, so much so that it was recently branded “one of the world’s biggest trademark ‘bullies’ … infamous for suing companies over the ‘pocket tab.’”
The latest brand on its radar, Levi’s alleges that YSL has taken to marketing and selling “pants bearing pocket tab devices that are highly similar to [its] tab trademark and are likely to confuse consumers about the source of YSL’s products and/or a relationship between YSL and Levi’s.”
Despite operating in different market segments and at markedly different price points (factors that would likely help YSL fight Levi’s claims of consumer confusion), Levi’s asserts that “in addition to deriving a profit from the sale of the tabbed pants,” YSL is also “causing incalculable and irreparable damage to [Levi’s] goodwill and diluting the capacity of its tab trademark to differentiate LEVI’S® products from others.” That is the purpose of a trademark, after all, to enable consumers to easily distinguish between the products of different companies based of their use of a name or logo, etc.
Levi’s further alleges that by selling pants with tabs on them, YSL is “likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception by or in the public as to the affiliation, connection, association, origin, sponsorship, or approval of YSL’s products to the detriment of [Levi’s].” In short: Consumers are likely to see the YSL pants and think that they are either Levi’s pants or maybe a collaboration between the two companies.
And still yet, Levi’s claims that YSL knows exactly what it is doing. In addition to allegedly profiting from the goodwill that comes hand-in-hand with Levi’s tab trademark, the denim giant asserts that “YSL’s conduct is aggravated by … willfulness, wantonness, malice, and conscious indifference to the rights and welfare of [Levi’s].”
As a result, Levi’s has asked the court to order YSL to immediately and permanently stop “manufacturing, producing, sourcing, importing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, advertising, or promoting any goods that display any words or symbols that so resemble [Levi]’s tab trademark as to be likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception, on or in connection with any product that is not authorized by or for [Levi’s].” Levis’ is also seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages, which will be determined at trial.
A representative for YSL was not immediately available for comment. However, a rep for Levi Strauss & Co. told TFL, “At Levi Strauss & Co., our trademarks are one of the company’s most valuable assets, and we work actively to protect our trademark rights. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not in a position to comment on the specific allegations.”
* The case is Levi Strauss & Co., v. Yves Saint Laurent America, 3:18-cv-06977 (N.D.Cal.).