Los Angeles – The popular denim company, Levi Strauss, has recently sued Yves Saint Laurent on the grounds of trademark infringement regarding the tabs included on jean pockets.
One of the most classic features on Levi jeans is also one of the smallest features on their pants. Levi’s have been commonly known to have the company name printed onto a red, white, or blue tab. This tab is typically attached into the right seam of the back pocket. The question is, however, does the use of a similar tab from Yves Saint Laurent warrant trademark infringement. To make a case, Levi Strauss must be able to prove that the similarities between the two could cause confusion among consumers relating to the source of the jeans. Alternatively, the company could be successful in the trademark lawsuit if it shows that consumers might assume a relationship between Yves Saint Laurent and Levi Strauss.
The claims related to this case go so far as to say that Yves Saint Laurent is profiting from the jeans that have the tabs added to them and are also “causing incalculable and irreparable damage to Levi’s goodwill and diluting the capacity of its tab trademark to differentiate Levi’s products from others.” Levi Strauss is alleging that this relationship is not only hurting the Levi brand but also is tarnishing the competitive advantage the company has obtained over its competitors due to the use of the tab. The complaint also alleges that the infringement is willful and is meant to profit from the Levi Strauss’ goodwil.
Currently, executives at Levi Strauss are requesting an injunction to prevent Yves Saint Laurent sales and triple damages due to the accused willful nature of the infringement. Critics regard the allegation of infringement as unreasonable when considering that the only commonality is that both tags are in fact tags. It may be questionable whether Levi Strauss’ tag is distinctive enough to qualify for trademark protection. A fundamental question is whether consumers see the tag itself a source identifier and whether consumers associate that source with just one company.
The allegations against the legitimacy of the lawsuit will not deter Levi Strauss from defending its tabs. Though it may seem like a small detail, Levi jeans have generated billions of dollars in revenue, therefore asserting ownership of the tabs is likely seen as an investment in long-term profitability for the organization.
San Diego – Ohio State University recently filed a Notice of Opposition opposing the University of Oklahoma’s trademark application of an image of a drum major with a block “O” on the front of the uniform. The University of Oklahoma filed the application on December 7, 2017.
In the opposition filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Ohio State claims that the block letter “O” has been used on its uniforms and merchandise since 1898. The opposition states that the block letter “O” is the “heart of the branding and image of Ohio State and is used in connection with all products and services offered and provided by Ohio State.”
In the Opposition, Ohio States cites its existing trademark registrations for the block letter “O” which registered in 1997, 2003, and 2013 for various goods and services including sporting events and apparel. The University of Oklahoma claims that its block “O” has been in use since 2001. Oklahoma often uses its block letter “O” in combination with a block letter “U” to form “OU”. Ohio State claims that consumer confusion is increased because of the shared area of use between the universities including musical band competitions and sports events.
This is not the first trademark dispute Ohio State has had with another University. Ohio State has had similar disputes with Oregon State University, and in 2017, Ohio State settled a trademark dispute with Oklahoma State over the acronym “OSU.” Ohio State and Oklahoma State came to an agreement that each can use the abbreviation as long as it’s not combined with the other school’s mascot. The Ohio State and Oklahoma State agreement came after Ohio State filed a trademark application in February of 2017 stating they planned to use “OSU” on apparel. Shortly after the application was filed, Oklahoma State filed a Request for Extension to oppose Ohio State’s trademark application.
In the present case, Ohio State likely has an uphill battle because it is questionable whether consumers are likely to be confused between the block letter “O” and an image of a drum major with a relatively small block letter “O” on the front of the uniform.
Orange County – Last week, Irvine, California based In-N-Out Burger sent a pun-filled cease and desist letter to Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery located in San Francisco suggesting that the brewerey “hop to action” to clear up a “brewing” trademark issue “in good spirits.”
In-N-Out Burger reached out after hearing of the upcoming release of Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery’s new beer called “In-N-Stout.” The brewery recently used Instagram to promote the new beer, describing it as a barrel-ages milkshake stout and tagged In-N-Out Burger’s account. Within the promotion was an image of the beer featuring a logo similar to In-N-Out Burger’s logo.
The cease-and-desist letter was also posted to Instagram with the caption “Can you find the puns?!?” In the letter, In-N-Out burger states that it has had multiple reports about the beer and continued to say: “In case you are not already aware, In-N-Out owns multiple trademark registrations in these trademarks. As you may expect, we tap into a lot of effort in protecting our marks, which includes limiting their use by others.”
“Please understand that use of our trademarks by third parties’ ales us to the extent that this could cause confusion in the marketplace or prevent us from protecting our trademarks in the future. We hope you appreciate, however, that we are attempting to clearly distill our rights by crafting an amicable approach with you, rather than barrel through this.”
In-N-Out continues the letter by requested that the brewery refrain from further use of the logo on products and to remove all images of the beer from social media and the brewery’s website and ends the letter by saying “we look forward to resolving this in good spirits.” The letter has gained a lot of attention on social media, and others began to comment on the topic.
The co-owner of the brewery states that they are not surprised by the cease-and-desist letter and that they had already planned on selling the beer in different packaging. Later, the brewery released a video featuring the blurred out In-N-Out logo and the brewery says it will not be releasing a cheap knockoff. The ad continues to state that the first 100 people to buy a beer will get a free burger from In-N-Out.
Orange County – On July 10th, 2018, Walmart filed a patent for audio surveillance technology for quality assurance purposes. According to the patent, sound sensors will be used to collect audio data to help improve the customer experience by focusing on the details of shoppers such as how long they stand in line, beeps of the scanners, rustle of bags, and even the conversations they have.
Sam Lester, a consumer privacy lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., says, “This is a very bad idea, if they do decide to implement this technology, the first thing we would want and expect is to know which privacy expectations are in place.” Although, at this time it is unclear how the recorded conversations will be used, how long they will be kept on file and who will have access to them.
According to Walmart’s director of corporate communications Ragan Dickens, the audio would mostly be reviewed by computers and will not be “analyzing the words” it picks up. The patent states that a performance metric might be “based on the content of the conversation” to find if employees are following a specific script or greeting.
Lester is not the only one who thinks that this new surveillance technology is a bad idea. In the past, Walmart has had employees fight the company’s surveillance efforts. Walmart began using intelligence-gathering and monitoring of employee’s activities after the union-backed employees protested inconsistent schedules and low wages.
Along with the employees, customers may unknowingly have their conversations recorded. The surveillance system may be deemed illegal in the 12 states that have two-party consent laws, which does not allow the recording of people without their consent. Walmart operates in all 50 states.
Dickens says, “I can assure you if the concept became a reality, we would comply with state and local laws,” and adds that employees would be notified about the sensors before installation.
Dickens continued to say that Walmart frequently files patents, “but that doesn’t mean the patents will actually be implemented,” and that they are always working on new ideas to improve customer service. The potential cost of the system has not become available as of yet, and Walmart has stated that the patent is only a concept.