A few days ago we heard about Levi's going after Japanese denim brands who have "repro" models that infringe on LS&C trademarks. We now hit up Neil Christoper, international brand manager of Kato Denim (who's in the clear after an earlier "de-Levi"), for his thoughts. In a recent email (with presentation edits):
The Japanese denim business is still in shock after the Evis/Evisu tax thing a few years ago and the government in Japan is getting hard on the denim business over the taxes on exported denim goods and the disclosure of overseas profits from them and if this is going to happen it's going to rock the smaller businesses to the core. With a new PM there who's very USA friendly and the small amount of tax revenue that the smaller companies bring in we'll have little to no support. There will be a few smaller companies closing their doors over this due mainly to the timing of the suit and with a lot more restrictions placed on the business. My guess would be one big company will be made an example of. Levis have always been VERY aggressive on there trademarks and copyrights. Even if the [Japanese] company stopped the use [of infringing trademarks] before the legal proceeding started importers and resellers in this group will be affected globally. The trademarks are global. The lawsuit will not effect that many ranges directly but the small niche brands, distributors and stores are a close group and all will know someone who is touched by it. There will still be product coming out and new lines will arise to replace what has been lost but this is a defensive play by Levis who again use there muscle to squeeze out the little guys to protect it's shareholders. Some will say what damage these small producers can do to the giant that is Levi.. 'A swarm of bees can kill a cow'...the US is a soft market right now but Europe is very hard, mainly from 'faux' denims mostly from established labels looking for an increased profit from cheaper denims. Levis (globally) has felt this the most due to the shrinking market and their, quite frankly, poorly conceived 'premium' attempts and collaborations that have never really worked. When you're the market leader even a little lostis a bad thing. Over the last ten year Levis have suffered greatly from smaller companies taking there business.