Levi Strauss is going after Quiksilver jeans in a trademark suit filed in the Northern District of California on March 10. At issue is the little red tab on the back pocket of Quik jeans. According to the complaint, Levi Strauss first used this “tab trademark” on its Levi’s denim jeans in 1936 to identify genuine Levi’s products. In addition, the complaint alleges that this isn’t the first time Quik has infringed the tab trademark. Another lawsuit arose when Quik put their version of the tab trademark on shirt pockets in the early 2000s (but that case settled). You can read the full complaint at The Trademark Blog. The central issue in trademark cases is whether there is a likelihood of consumer confusion between the two products. I know I wouldn’t think Quik jeans with a red tab on the pocket were Levi’s. But then again, people in the action sports space are, arguably, over-familiar with the endemic brands and their fashion and branding intricacies (the average joe, on the other hand, probably thinks Quiksilver is spelled “Quicksilver”). Thus, the average person shopping for jeans might be more easily confused. The interesting thing here is that Levi’s alleges that Quik is intentionally trying to confuse consumers (via the pocket tabs) into assuming an association with Levi’s. For an endemic action sports company, I’m not so sure they’d be out to convey an association with a non-endemic brand. However, if they’ve already agreed not to use the trademark tab on shirts, why try again on jeans? And why not go with a blue or green or yellow tab instead? This one will be fun to watch; can’t wait to read Quik’s reply.
Update: In funny and timely coincidences news, Quik’s former President (from 1997-2009), Marty Samuels, has taken a new role as CEO for Hybrid Apparel, a printables apparel company that also does a good deal of licensing business. Hybrid Apparel holds licenses for Levi’s shirts in the US. Coverage at Shop-Eat-Surf.