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Why Levi’s Sued This Australian Business Owner

Levi Strauss & Co. wants to take yet another brand to court for allegedly infringing on its trademarked red tabs.

Several years on from a string of tab-related legal battles—litigants included Yves Saint Laurent, Vineyard Vines and Kenzo—Levi’s filed a new infringement complaint last week, this one against David Connolly, an Australian entrepreneur who owns the businesses Green Tab and truckerjacket.com.

The suit, filed in a California federal court Wednesday, alleges that Green Tab infringes on Levi’s assorted tab trademarks—it owns marks for “Red Tab,” “Orange Tab” and “Silvertab.” The complaint contends that Connolly’s Green Tab business promotes and sells the same types of apparel products and sustainability services Levi’s markets and sells in connection with its trademarks, including its assorted tab marks. It further argues that a jacket mock-up featured repeatedly on the Green Tab website bears a green tab “nearly identical” to its own tab trademark.

“I will answer the vexatious and false claims brought in Case No. 22-cv-04106,” Connolly told Sourcing Journal. “I take proactive steps to avoid conflicts, particularly with brands like Levi’s whom use legal process to obfuscate, delay, cause financial harm and to achieve other strategic effects for a collateral purpose.”

To prove his point, Connolly shared a screenshot depicting what he said are his “instructions to Google to remove any search relating to Levi’s.” The image includes eight search terms for which he has purportedly requested Google not show his ads on. These terms include “levis jacket,” “levi trucker jacket,” “levi’s trucker jacket,” “levi’s leather trucker jacket,” “levi s mens corduroy sherpa lined trucker jacket” and levi’s men’s faux leather classic trucker jacket.”

Connolly shared an image that he claims demonstrates that he took proactive steps to distance his brand from Levi's
Connolly said he has taken proactive steps to avoid conflicts with Levi’s. David Connolly

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Levi’s, however, pointed to a trademark application Connolly filed in April last year as proof of the business owner’s “effort to misappropriate” the denim brand’s reputation and trademarks. The proposed mark, which would cover clothing, including jackets, pants, shirts, headwear and undergarments, was published for opposition in January this year. Days afterwards, Levi’s filed a request to extend its time to oppose by 90 days. It submitted a notice of opposition on May 3.

In his response, filed June 8, Connolly argued that Levi’s was “seeking to mislead and confuse the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Trademark and Appeal Board by failing to provide all the information.” Rather than being in direct competition with Levi’s, Connolly contended that Green Tab has another focus: cotton.

Though Connolly’s other business, truckerjacket.com, does sell apparel, Green Tab’s website suggests the brand is dedicated to selling sustainable cotton materials. In his response to Levi’s opposition, he argued there were “no conflicting designs or goods manufactured that could be sold which would, in turn, conflict with” one of Levi’s registered designs.

Connolly’s rebuttal also highlights how Green Tab had previously been registered in the United States in connection with clothing. Registered in September 2011, the mark was canceled in April 2018 because the registrant did not file an acceptable declaration affirming the mark was still in use.

“Irrespective of the Intellectual Property Class, the manner in which the marks are used and any other argument an opponent might use to seek to obfuscate or delay a registration process the simple fact remains – In Australia children aged 4 are required to achieve an academic standard whereby they can distinguish between the words GREEN and RED in all regards prior to attending 1st year of school,” Connolly added.

Levi's lawsuit includes images of six truckerjacket.com products that it alleges infringe on its Arcuate and Red Tag marks
Levi’s lawsuit includes images of six truckerjacket.com products that it alleges infringe on its Arcuate and Red Tag marks. Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi’s suit also accused Connolly of manufacturing, marketing and selling products bearing “copies” of its “Arcuate” trademark and tab marks on truckerjacket.com. The filing included six images, three of denim jackets bearing stitching similar to Levi’s winged Arcuate design and another three jackets that appear to bear red tabs.

The complaint ultimately accuses Connolly of trademark infringement and dilution and unfair competition. It asks the judge to enjoin and restrain Connolly from manufacturing, selling and promoting any goods or services using words, symbols or designs that resemble Levi’s tab and Arcuate marks. It further asked that his Green Tab trademark application be refused and that he be required to deliver to Levi’s his entire inventory of infringing products and services.