We have had somewhat of an unplanned blue jeans theme here at DuetsBlog, with Karen blogging about the upside down triangle logo associated with Guess designer jeans from the 1980s, here, and Tiffany blogging about Levi Strauss and Abercrombie & Fitch butting heads, here. My turn now to talk about a blue jean brand, along with airbrushing, non-traditional trademarks, and nominative fair use.
Some time ago I came across an advertiser’s reward-type promotion, inviting customers to refer a friend and “pocket the cash” — basically, a free cash reward for the successful referral. What interested me about the promotion was the prominent depiction of a Levi’s back pocket complete with the Levi Strauss Double Arcuate Design on the denim pocket. After realizing this was no co-branding exercise and that a pair of Levi’s jeans was not part of the reward, only cash, and this depiction was merely the advertiser’s play on words or an attempt to reinforce the words in the promotion, it led me to wonder whether the advertiser even realized that it had used one of Levi Strauss’ non-traditional trademarks, most likely without permission.
Here are a few examples of federally-registered non-traditional trademarks owned by Levi Strauss:
The one I encountered in the reward promotion was the center image minus the tab, so it’s possible the well-known tab element was airbrushed to remove it as a trademark issue. The broader-scope registered mark on the right, however, indicates that simply removing the tab may not be sufficient to avoid all possible trademark issues.