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Barbour Calls Out Levi’s for Being a “Trademark Bully” Over its Red Tab

Two century-old heritage brands are prepared to take one another to court over a tab.

British luxury brand Barbour is taking Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&CO.) to task for being a “trademark bully” in a lawsuit filed Friday in a New York federal court. The filing comes in response to Levi’s recent claim that Barbour used a “confusingly similar” version of its iconic red tab on the pocket of its men’s button-down shirts and jeans.

Levi’s sent a cease and desist letter to Barbour in May that alleged that all garments with the Barbour flag were infringing products and demanded that within 10 days Barbour immediately cease all sales of garments bearing the small tab.

Barbour has been continuously selling Barbour-flagged apparel products in the U.S. for at least 18 years. Though Barbour’s flag is blue and bears the ‘Barbour’ name, Levi’s said the flags “create a substantial likelihood of confusion as to the source of these products and/or the relationship between Barbour and LS&CO.”

Barbour shirt
Barbour shirt with tab

Levi’s also sued Vineyard Vines last year and Kenzo this year over similar claims. In the suit against Kenzo, Levi’s said the company’s activities threaten to cause it to lose sales and suffer “incalculable and irreparable damage” to its goodwill, not to mention confuse shoppers.

In its filing, Barbour described Levi’s as one of the most litigious apparel companies in the U.S.

“It has a well-deserved reputation as a trademark ‘bully,’ having filed more than 300 trademark lawsuits since 1989. It is infamous for suing companies over the “pocket tab,” the “arcuate” stitching, and the leather patch, in which it claims to own rights,” the filing said.

Barbour said the demand letter is “a classic example of severe overreaching by a company that has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s biggest trademark bullies.”

“No reasonable and prudent consumer would ever mistakenly believe that these Barbour-branded products are somehow connected with, affiliated with, or sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co., the San Francisco-based purveyor of denim jeans,” Barbour countered.