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Clothing Maker Levi Strauss Wins Legal Battle In EU's Highest Court - 2001-11-20


The European Union's highest court has handed clothing maker Levi Strauss a victory, ruling against the sale of cheap Levi imports in Western Europe.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled in favor of Levi Strauss in its case against the British supermarket chain Tesco.

Tesco had been importing Levi jeans from the United States and selling them at low prices in its stores. This undercut Levi, which sold its jeans in Britain at established prices through selected importers.

According to a press statement, the court said the trademark proprietor, meaning Levi Strauss, would have to give clear consent to the marketing within the European Economic Area of goods that were placed on the market outside of Europe.

The European Economic Area includes the 15 EU states, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The court also said that, without explicit authority, it is up to the trader to prove it had received consent, and it was not for the trademark proprietor to show a lack of consent.

Analysts said the European Court of Justice has made a major ruling in favor of trademark holders, and against retailers seeking to import products from outside the EU without the authorization of the brand name companies.

Tesco has stopped selling Levis imported from the United States but still gets some discounted jeans, at a few dollars off the regular market price, from within Europe.

Simon Soffe, the press manager for Tesco, said the campaign to bring cheaper designer clothes to consumers will continue. "We're buying the jeans from Europe where we can get a good price on them already and we can get some of the stock that we need. But the reason for our campaign through the European court was because at the moment we simply can't get enough to meet our customers demand. We wanted to be able to go to the U.S. to be able to expand the range that we have and also bring prices down further," he said.

Tesco has been selling Levis for about $39 a pair as much as half the price for the same products sold elsewhere in Britain.

The Court of Justice ruling sets legal standards that British courts are to use in making a final ruling on the case. The perfume maker Zino Davidoff was also a party to the case on the side of Levi Strauss.