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Levi's sued Coperni for copyright infringement

The identity dilemma of upcycling products

Levi's sued Coperni for copyright infringement The identity dilemma of upcycling products

In a legal dispute involving a frankly unthinkable pair of brands, Levi's sued Coperni for alleged trademark infringement and the sale of modified Levi's products. Levi's alleges that Coperni's use of fabric tabs similar to its own and a specific stitching on the back pocket of some products made from recycled Levi's jeans created confusion among consumers.

Why did Levi’s sued Coperni?

Specifically, Levi's accuses Coperni of plagiarising, by diluting it, the iconic 'tabs' applied to the back pocket of jeans. Coperni has applied similar fabric tabs to the back pockets of its jeans and to the front pockets of its shirts, creating a striking resemblance to Levi's tabs that we could almost assume was intentional but which Levi's management evidently did not like. But there is another violation that the denim brand is contesting with Coperni: the French brand is in fact offering 'reworked' Levi's products for sale in the form of its own Hybrid Flare Denim Trousers that retain the registered Arcuate topstitching and Levi's tab branding, creating a potential risk of confusion among consumers who might confuse these Coperni products with collaborations or licensed products of Levi's due to the unauthorised use of the trademark. Things are further complicated by the fact that Coperni apparently does not indicate on its website that some products come from pre-existing, reworked jeans. And precisely because Levi's has a very extensive history of collaborations with luxury brands (the most recent with ERL, but also with Valentino and Miu Miu, to name two of the most famous), Coperni's use of the registered trademarks would, in Levi's view, increase the likelihood of consumer confusion even though the two brands operate in slightly different market segments.

While Coperni's response remains uncertain, one thing is clear: the outcome of this lawsuit will have a significant impact on several aspects of sustainable fashion, which in recent years has embraced the sustainable practice of upcycling with open arms, raising several questions on issues such as price points of pre-existing materials, their quality and, in cases like this one, intellectual property.