Levis obtains judicial protection for its “double-arc” suture
(Author: Mr.ZHANG Shuhua; Source: WAN HUI DA)
The “double-arc” suture on the back pockets of the jeans is a registered trademark of Levi Strauss’s. The use of the double-arc sign, which is distinctive, enables consumers to link it to Levi’s jeans. The defendants’ use of a similar mark on its jeans infringes Levi Strauss’s trademark.
At the beginning of 2011, Levis Strauss & Co. (Levis Strauss) filed its first trademark infringement suit in China, before the Shanghai Pudong district People’s Curt (Pudong Court) against four companies.
Levis Strauss submitted that its Levi’s jeans business started in China in 2001 when it opened its first shop in Shanghai. Thereafter it obtained the registration of its “double-arc suture” as a trademark. In June 2009, Levis Strauss found in the market a similar double-arc design on the back pockets of jeans branded “Jasonwood”.
After demanding in vain the alleged infringers to cease infringement, Levis Strauss sued two Jasonwood brand holders, one manufacturer and one distributor before the Pudong Court, requesting an order for stopping the infringement and destroying the infringing products. In addition, Levis Strauss demanded that the brand holders delete the promotional articles about their products on the Internet and pay, jointly with the manufacturer, RMB 1 million in damages.
The Pudong Court held that the two double-arc sutures used by the defendants are similar to the registered trademark of Levis Strauss and that such use constitutes an act of infringement. Pudong Court ordered the four defendants to cease immediately the infringement, and three of them to pay RMB 350,000 in damages, including reasonable expenses to the plaintiff.
One issue of dispute in the case was whether the double-arc suture is a trademark. The defendants argued that their sign was not a trademark and was used on the back pockets of their jeans as a decoration, but not as a trademark. But the court thought otherwise. The court held that the plaintiff’s use of the double-arc suture in combination with its registered trademark “Levi’s”, used on the jeans as a whole, had established among the consumers the link between the sign and the products (the jeans). Therefore, according to the court, the double-arc suture has a distinctive character and should be protected as a trademark.