And what is the heinous Howies crime?
Allegedly, it’s copyright infringement.
Company co-founder Dave Hieatt picks up the story:
"Although our [jeans] label is grey and says howies, the letter [from Levi Strauss] says it could lead to confusion in the market place because of our placement of the label. As we have just found out, they have a patent on the actual placement of the label."
The San Francisco all-things-denim corporate monster (12 000 employees, annual revenues of $4bn) took out a label-placement patent in 1938. Oddly enough, the patent applies to label placement on the right back pocket. The Howies label is on the left back pocket.
Amazingly, the writ-threat letter from Levi Strauss said the American company may seek monetary damages from Howies, which employs just five people and sells just 2000 pairs of jeans a year.
Howies isn’t taking this lying down. The company is to produce protest t-shirts where the proceeds will "go towards the fight for common sense."
And calling all Levi jeans owners: want to add yout own protest? Howies can help.
"If you would like to replace ‘you know who’s tab’ on your jeans with a howies tab as a way of protesting about their behaviour, we will you supply you a free howies tab to put wherever you like," said Hiatt.
And to see how wide this story is now being carried – thanks, Levis, Howies must be thinking! – type ‘Howies Levi Strauss’ in the google search engine.