Levi settles trade mark dispute
The famous jean marker Levi Strauss has recently settled a dispute regarding the well know patch of red cloth stitched on the back pocket of all of its jeans. The company accused Colloseum Holdings a Swiss company for infringing its trade mark rights. The Swiss company had been selling jeans with very similar shaped red cloth with its own brand name stitched into the back pocket.
Levi Strauss argued that the red label was internationally recognised by consumers as a sign of jeans made by the Levi Strauss brand, even without the Levi brand name printed on it. The company currently owns several EU trade marks in relation to the red tab in certain positions on the jean pockets. It is stated that the trade mark includes a “rectangular red label, made of textile, sewn into and protruding from the upper part of the left-hand seam of the rear pockets of trousers, shorts or skirts”.
The Swiss company argued that Levi Strauss should lose its trade mark rights to the red tab as it had never used it on its own. However the European Court of Justice held that the red label could be seen has an integral part of the Levi Strauss brand, even though the company had not used the red label separately.
A spokesman for the Levi Strauss & Co stated that the company “works on an ongoing basis to ensure that their copyrights and trademarks are appropriately respected”.
What are the limitations to trade mark infringement?
The Trade Mark Act 1994 provides specific limitations on the effects of a trade mark. A trade mark owner cannot prohibit a third party from using a registered trade mark in the course of trade:
- his own name or address,
- indications concerning the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin or other characteristic of goods or services,
- the trade mark where it is necessary to indicate the intended purposes of a product or service, in particular, as accessories or spare parts
However these must all be done in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters. For example the user must not use the trade mark with the intention of capturing the goodwill associated with trade mark as this would go against the requirement of honest practices.
By Faith Nkomo
Southampton Solent Law Student