Denim Debacle: Vanity Files Against Levi Strauss in Trademark Claim

By Joseph Mandour on May 8, 2012

jeans-thumb-200x149-41042 California – A denim retailer based in Fargo, North Dakota is asking a federal judge to settle a trademark infringement dispute it is currently in with Levi Strauss & Company.

According to court documents filed in a Grand Forks U.S. District Court, the dispute began at the beginning of the year when Levi Strauss sent a cease and desist letter to the Fargo-based Vanity, claiming the pocket design on the retailer’s jeans was “confusingly similar” to Levi’s brand of jeans.

Vanity responded to the letter by filing for declaratory relief against the denim giant stating that the “V” design on the back of its jeans is “visually distinctive” from Levi’s jeans and that “Levi Strauss does not have the right to prevent Vanity from using a stylized version of the letter ‘V’ in connection with its pocket designs.” The lesser-known retailer also indicated in its complaint its apprehension of being sued by Levi Strauss and that it hopes to avoid such legal action by settling the trademark infringement claims.

Vanity claims that it has been using the “V” design in its trademark since the mid 1950’s.

However, in the cease and desist letter to Vanity, trademark attorneys for Levi Strauss assert that the similarity in the pocket designs “will create a substantial likelihood of customer confusion as to the source of Vanity jeans.”

As a result, Vanity is seeking an order from a federal judge declaring that its pocket designs are not confusingly similar to the Levi’s brand. Additionally, Vanity is requesting that the judge issue an order precluding Levi Strauss from suing Vanity for trademark infringement.

Levi Strauss is no stranger to protecting its intellectual property. The company, founded in 1853, has reportedly sued more than thirty other retailers for trademark infringement over the past five years. In a more notable case, a judge ruled against Strauss after it claimed Abercrombie & Fitch had allegedly violated its trademarks.

Vanity is a mall-based clothing chain, selling young women’s apparel and accessories. By 2009, the company had expanded its distribution through its website, eVanity.com, and had grown to nearly two hundred stores located across the country.

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