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Tiny Welsh firm incurs wrath of jeans giant; RETRO REPORT How we covered...

Byline: Tony Woolway

A TINY clothing firm in West Wales is locked in a Davidand-Goliath battle with the biggest jeans manufacturer in the world.

Howies, based in Cardigan Bay has been served a writ by jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co of San Francisco Bay. The US company, whose turnover last year was $4.1bn, has accused the Cardigan-based firm of infringing its trademark red label by locating the grey label of its jeans on the back pocket.

The US company first patented the right to the back pocket position in 1938 and the tab trademark is among 11 the company has registered with US authorities.

Lawyers for Levi Strauss, which employs 12,000 people, have written to Howies, which employs eight, saying the infringement could cause customer confusion and ordered it to stop immediately.

Levi also wants Howies to provide details of the number of jeans it has sold with a tab in this position and has said it could seek monetary damages.

The writ has amazed the small Cardigan-based company, which is best known for its fashionable organic T-shirts and ethical business outlook.

Founder David Hieatt, who at first thought the writ was a spoof, said yesterday it appeared that Levi believed only it could put a trademark tab on the back pocket of jeans.

"They say it's an incontestable patent, but I think it's the basic right of any manufacturer to put their brand name on their own products," he said.

"Our tab is grey and says Howies. Theirs is red and says Levi's.

"It's kind of odd that someone can patent the placement of a label.

"It's as if Ford said no other car manufacturer could put their own logo on the boot of a car."
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 1, 2010
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