Today's New York Times has annointed Levi's as "the most litigious in the apparel industry when it comes to trademark infringement lawsuits." While I suspect that this dubious title may be contestable by any number of other companies, particularly were global legal activity included, Levi's does seem to be determined that its double-arc pocket stitching not become a generic inscription on competitors' backsides:
Robert Hanson, Levi's North American president, has a few choice words for alleged trademark infringers:
Instead of relying on Levi's designs for what he called a "running start," competitors should look for other devices that don't come remotely close to the Levi's trademarks," Mr. Hanson said. "Be more innovative."
While some denim designers deny copying Levi's and characterize the lawsuits as a desperate effort to reinvigorate a tired company, others are bolder:
"Everyone is borrowing from them, it's inevitable," said Michael Silver, the founder of Silver Jeans, who has had several legal run-ins with Levi's. "They should be happy that people are copying them," he said.
Fashion designs themselves, of course, are not protected under U.S. law. Even if they were, a basic idea like denim jeans would long since have been part of the public domain, as would any number of classic styles. It seems, however, that in their zeal for copying, some clothing companies may be taking trademarks along with the designs to which they are affixed.
It remains to be seen whether these alleged infringers have bitten off more than they can chew.
UPDATE: You’ve just got to see The Trademark Blog’s ass-essment of this issue. Indescribable—and NSFW!