August 28, 2014

Levi's Cures 501 Patent Blues With Trademarks

by Guest Blogger

The history of blue jeans starts with a patent. In 1873, a patent entitled "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings" was issued to a tailor named Jacob Davis and his cloth supplier Levi Strauss. The patent claimed:

[A] pair of pantaloons having the pocket-openings secured at each edge by means of rivets . . . whereby the seams at the points named are prevented from ripping

The "pantaloons" in the patent drawing depict the first known image of blue jeans:

08 28 14 Blog Twitter Pic Bluejeans Patent Drawing

According to author Kate Kelly, Jacob Davis had been using copper rivets to attach straps to horse blankets. When approached by a customer seeking work pants with sturdier pockets, he decided to use the same copper rivets to reinforce the pockets and the bottom of the button fly. Davis' design was an immediate success, and he sought patent protection with the help of Levi Strauss. After the issuance of the patent, Davis worked with Strauss to commercialize the invention. The original design was assigned lot number 501.

The blue jeans patent expired in 1890 at which point anyone could make, use, offer for sale or sell the invention. According to a recent New York Times article by Melanie Rehak, Osh Kosh B'Gosh in Wisconsin and Carhartt in Michigan emerged as competitors by the turn of the century. After that, H.D. Lee Mercantile Company of Kansas started making its Lee Dungarees and Hudson Overall Company of North Carolina began making its Wrangler blue jeans.

With its patent expired, Levi's was left with no choice but to differentiate its blue jeans through branding. To that end, it obtained a variety of federal trademark registrations covering everything from product names to design features. Here are some examples:

U.S. Reg. No. 119,816 for the words "TWO HORSE" and U.S. Reg. No. 523,665 for the logo shown here in this example from 1917:

08 28 14 Blog Two Horse Logo

U.S. Reg. No. 250,265 for LEVI'S and U.S. Reg. No. 716,644 for the words "THIS IS A PAIR OF LEVI'S THEY ARE POSITIVELY SUPERIOR" shown here on this ticket from 1927:

08 28 14 Blog Levis

U.S. Reg. No. 223,725 for the ticket across the back pocket, U.S. Reg. No. 356,701 for the red tab, U.S. Reg. No. 404,248 for the double arch design on the back pockets, U.S. Reg. No. 516,561 for the red tab with the word "Levi's", U.S. Reg. No. 577,490 for the red tab design, and U.S. Reg. No. 849,437 for LEVI'S (and design). All of these trademarks are shown here in this recent example:

08 28 14 Blog Ticket

In today's world, branding is more important than ever. Consumers are watching carefully what they spend, and they are seeking authenticity in brands like Levi's because its longevity suggests it has value and is thus worth buying. Levi's federal trademark registrations have played a critical role in securing the long-term success of the brand. Federal trademark registrations provide a number of important benefits, including notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the trademark, legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the trademark with the goods/services listed in the registration. Moreover, unlike patents, trademark registrations don't expire as long they continue to be used in commerce.

Without its trademark registrations, Levi's would be singing the blues instead of making commercials about them.

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.