Denim giant Levi Strauss & Co has recently won a trade
mark infringement case against Dutch retail chain Hema
concerning its famous V-shaped stitching on the back pockets of
The Arcuate mark
The dispute did not concern the word mark LEVI STRAUSS nor
the characteristic red label flag (also known as The Red Tab),
but covered the famous V-shaped stitching pattern also known as
the Arcuate mark. The Arcuate pattern has been registered in
the Benelux as a figurative mark since 1981. In addition, Levi
Strauss is the holder of an EU figurative mark registered in
It is not the first time both brands have fought over the
V-shaped stitching. In 2003 Levi's came across a variation of
its Arcuate mark for the first time. The case was settled by
both parties in 2004, when Hema recognised the exclusive trade
mark rights of Levi's and declared that it would not use the
Arcuate mark or a variation of the characteristic shape again.
Hema seemed to comply with the agreement for a long period of
time. However, in 2015 Levi's came across the use of a
variation on its Arcuate mark again.
Along with its trade mark application, Levi's submitted a
more detailed description of the sign, describing the mark as
"the design of two curved lines positioned in the design of a
pocket". The Brussels Commercial Court first established that
in light of this description there were a number of differences
which precluded the signs from being perceived as identical.
Hema does not use two but three curved lines in the pattern.
Moreover, the lines do not meet exactly in the centre but more
on the left side of the pocket.
Visual similarity, identical goods and reputation
The Court held that that though the marks might not be
identical, the marks do show significant similarity given the
high degree of visual similarity, the fact that the signs are
used for identical goods and that the Belgian public is very
familiar with the mark. In the Court's view the stitching used
by Hema creates a likelihood of confusion and therefore
infringes the Arcuate mark.
The Court prohibits Hema from further using the sign and
orders a total of €4.5 million ($5 million) in damages,
based on 221,603 sold articles across the Benelux. Initially
Levi's had filed a damage claim of €50 ($60) per pair of
jeans. The Court however, lowered this to a total of €20
($24) for each pair sold in the Benelux since 2015, finding
this a more reasonable and proportionate amount given the
financial circumstances of the case. Hema has to pay a
€100 ($118) fine for every pair of jeans sold after the
ruling of May 14 with a maximum of €4 million ($5
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