The Shanghai Pudong District People's Court has held that four companies infringed Levi Strauss & Co's 'double-arc' stitching mark by using similar stitching on jeans.

At the beginning of 2011 Levi Strauss filed its first trademark infringement suit in China before the Shanghai Pudong District People's Court. Levi Strauss submitted that it had started its Levi's jeans business in China in 2001, when it opened its first shop in Shanghai. Thereafter, it had obtained a trademark registration for its double-arc stitching, as shown below.

In June 2009 Levi Strauss found that jeans sold under the brand Jasonwood bore a similar double-arc design on their back pockets.

After requesting (in vain) that the alleged infringers cease the infringement, Levi Strauss sued two Jasonwood brand owners, one manufacturer and one distributor before the Pudong Court, requesting an order that the defendants stop the infringement and destroy the infringing products. In addition, Levi Strauss demanded that the brand owners delete the promotional material concerning the products on their websites and pay, jointly with the manufacturer, Rmb1 million in damages.

The court held that the two double-arc designs used by the defendants were similar to Levi Strauss's registered trademark and that such use constituted an act of infringement. The court ordered that the four defendants cease the infringement immediately. Three of them were also ordered to pay Rmb350,000 in damages, including reasonable expenses, to the plaintiff.

One issue that was disputed in the case was whether Levi Strauss's double-arc stitching was a trademark. The defendants argued that their sign was not a trademark and was used on the back pockets of their jeans merely as a decoration. However, the court thought otherwise. It held that Levi Strauss's use of the double-arc stitching - in combination with its registered trademark LEVI'S, on the jeans as a whole - had established a link between the sign and the products in the minds of the consumers. Therefore, the double-arc stitching had distinctive character and should be protected as a trademark.

For further information on this topic please contact Zhang Shuhua at Wan Hui Da Law Firm & Intellectual Property Agency by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000), fax (+86 10 6894 8030) or email ([email protected]).