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Barbour calls Levi’s a 'trademark bully'

Barbour has filed legal papers in the New York Federal Court saying that Levi’s deserves its reputation as a “trademark bully,” after having filed more than 300 trademark law suits since 1989.

The comment comes in response to apparent threats by Levi over Barbour’s use of its ‘Barbour flag’ tab, which Barbour claims to have used for 20 years.

Lee Curtis, partner and chartered trademark attorney at law firm HGF, said: “It seems that Barbour may have called Levi’s bluff and launched this action in an attempt to bring matters to a head and their actions are an attempt to draw a line under the matter and take the initiative.

“It will be interesting how this matter plays out, as Levi are very protective of the tabs which bear their name on clothing. However, the fact that Barbour claim to have used their tab for over 20 years without apparent issue should go in their favour.”

Karen Fong, IP lawyer and retail and fashion expert at Keystone Law, added that sending cease and desist letters and filing law suits to protect one’s trademarks does not make a company a bully.

She said: “Every major brand owner does it. Perhaps it’s the way that one writes the letter which sets the course of what happens. C&D letter writers may wish to take a leaf out of the book of Netflix whose C&D letter to an infringer last year was so creatively charming that the recipient not only complied but the letter got rave reviews on social media and the press, no doubt increasing the Netflix brand value.”

Elaine O’Hare, senior associate and IP specialist at Stevens & Bolton, said: “Levi’s, Adidas and most recently Christian Louboutin have developed a particular reputation for pushing the boundaries of trademark protection; seeking to cover aspects of designs in which it might previously have been thought impossible to obtain a monopoly.

“The cycle of fashion is moving ever-faster, with high street replicas of catwalk designs appearing within days and many trends coming and going within months. It’s not surprising therefore that brands and designers are putting greater effort into protecting their primary brand names and the overarching features which are common to all of their products.

“However, there are limits and so it will be interesting to see which way the court goes in this case.”

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