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So-Called ‘Trademark Bully’ Levi’s Hits Hammies With Red Tab Lawsuit

Levi’s is suing yet another brand for infringing on its patented red tab trademark.

Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) filed a lawsuit against fellow Golden State brand Hammies in a California federal court on Nov. 10 for trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition.

Levi’s alleged that it uses some of the world’s oldest and most well-respected apparel trademarks, including The Tab trademark. The tab is often displayed in red but appears in all colors, including orange, silver and white. The tab appears on almost all the denim and T-shirts sold under the Levi’s brand, resulting in millions of products sold annually bearing this trademark. Levi’s adopted the tab trademark in 1936, registered it in 1938 and has used it as part of its corporate logo throughout those 80-plus years. The company acknowledged spending many millions of dollars per year advertising and promoting products bearing the tab.

The lawsuit contends that Santa Barbara-based Hammies had misappropriated Levi’s famous tab as a symbol for its own apparel products, further claiming that the tab was recognized among the general consuming public “long before” Hammies started selling. This means the brand’s “Hammies Tab” is likely to confuse consumers about the source of its products or a relationship between the two companies—or even worse, confuse Hammies for Levi’s.

“No other maker of overalls can have any other purpose in putting a colored tab on an outside patch pocket, unless for the express and sole purpose of copying our mark and confusing the customer,” Leo Christopher Lucier, Levi’s national sales manager in 1936 who originally proposed the placement of a folded cloth ribbon in the structural seams of the rear pocket, is quoted as saying about the distinctive red tab.

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Prior to the lawsuit, LS&Co. wrote to Hammies in 2021, demanding it cease these infringements. Hammies allegedly agreed to end all advertising, promotion, offer, display and sale of products bearing the Hammies Tab. After some months of delay and despite repeated reports to Hammies that it was still promoting its tab on its website and social media accounts, Hammies has “refused to honor its commitment to stop and is, now in increasing quantities, continuing to promote the Hammies Tab.”

This “illegal activity” will continue to cause irreparable damage by creating a likelihood of confusion and deception among consumers and the trade to the source of the infringing Hammies products and services, causing the public to falsely associate LS&Co. with Hammies, dilute the capacity of its tab trademark to differentiate Levi’s products from others, cause LS&Co. to lose sales of its genuine clothing products, cause incalculable damage to LS&Co.’s goodwill and reputation with consumers and collaborators, and finally, cause others to believe that they too can misappropriate the tab.

In addition to these damages, the lawsuit said, Hammies’ actions have caused and will cause Levi’s irreparable harm for which monetary damages and other remedies are “inadequate.” LS&Co. is asking for a jury trial.

This is far from Levi’s first lawsuit over trademarks.

Once called a “bully” by British luxury brand Barbour in a 2018 trademark suit for the legal action it takes to protect its tab, Levi’s has sued Yves Saint LaurentKenzoVineyard Vines, 3×1, and Australian entrepreneur David Conolly for patent infringement in the past few years alone. In total, Levi’s has filed more than 300 trademark lawsuits since 1989.

Neither Levi’s nor Hammies immediately responded to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.