The Controversy Over Levi’s Red Tag

The clothing brand Levi Strauss & Co. has sued the French fashion brand Kenzo.

Levi’s fears that their red pocket tab is in danger. They initiated a trademark infringement lawsuit this month. Kenzo’s use of red tabs on the pockets of their trousers threatens the tradition Levi’s established back in the 1930s to differentiate their brand from other denim labels. The company claims that Kenzo’s use of the red tags could cause “incalculable and irreparable damage” to their brand.

For some, the red tab may seem like a very minuscule detail on denim compared to the cut and the fit. However, this tab has made Levi’s a unique clothing brand that allows consumers to identify their denim whenever they spot it. Levi’s rightfully owns the trademark to the “Tab Device”. The definition of their trademark is that the tab “consists of a textile marker or other material sewn into one of the regular structural seams of the garment”. It seems straight forward that based on this trademark protection, Kenzo should stop producing clothing with red tabs. However, they have ignored the cease-and-desist order from Levi’s and they are still producing garments with the red tab.

So what’s the harm? Well, for consumers who are accustomed to the decades-old tradition of seeing a red tab on solely Levi’s, seeing this marker elsewhere could cause confusion. If consumers wrongly associate the quality, design, and reputation of Levi’s with other companies, this could have a grave impact. Consumers may start buying from other companies that produce garments with red tags if they perceive them to be the same. The fact that this has been Levi’s defining mark for such a long period of time leaves us with many questions about Kenzo’s actions. Were they trying to capitalize off the success of Levi’s branding? Was it a simple mistake?

Christopher Lucier, a sales manager in 1936, had his own opinion on other companies using the red tag. He had said: “no other maker of overalls can have any other purpose in putting a coloured tab on an outside patch pocket, unless for the express and sole purpose of copying our mark, and confusing the customer”.

Regardless of their true intentions, we look forward to seeing how Kenzo will respond to this legal action against them.

Information and Image Gathered From: World Intellectual Property Review, Dezeen

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