Patent Showdown Over Worn Blue Jeans at the ITC

Patent Showdown Over Worn Blue Jeans at the ITC Photo: Fontina/iStockphoto.com

A family-run company in Ohio alleges in a new complaint that 17 clothing makers—including Abercrombie & Fitch, The Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. and Lucky Brand Dungarees Inc.—infringed patents to make denim look worn.

The complaint, filed in the International Trade Commission on behalf of RevoLaze LLC by Dentons partner Mark Hogge on Monday, comes on the heels of 17 patent infringement lawsuits against the clothiers filed in Cleveland federal district court on Aug. 15.

RevoLaze holds 29 patents for laser scribing methods to impart graphics and patterns on materials such as denim. It’s valuable technology because the old method for making denim look stylishly worn—sandblasting—is associated with silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease for the workers. Major denim jean companies have banned the use of sandblasting.

“We have worked very hard over the last two decades to invent and patent our proprietary laser scribing technology to benefit the denim industry,” RevoLaze CEO Darryl Costin said in a written statement. “Basically, there are companies out there who looked at our technology in the past, and are now selling jeans manufactured with the laser abrasion processes. We’re asking the ITC to provide us protection.”

The ITC will determine whether to institute a complaint within 30 days. RevoLaze is seeking a general exclusion order, which would bar the import of all infringing denim products, not just those made by the 17 named companies.

The other companies being sued are American Eagle Outfitters; BlankNYC; The Buckle Inc.; Buffalo David Bitton; Diesel SpA; DL1961 Premium Denim Inc.; Eddie Bauer LLC; Guess? Inc., H&M Hennes & Mauritz A.B.; Roberto Cavalli SpA d/b/a Just Cavalli; Koos Manufacturing Inc. d/b/a AG Jeans and Big Star; Fashion Box SpA d/b/a Replay; and VF Corp. d/b/a/ 7 for All Mankind.

Based in Westlake, Ohio, RevoLaze got a major boost earlier this year when Roy P. Disney made an investment in the company and joined its board. Lear Corp., which is interested in RevoLaze technology for the automotive industry, invested in the company in 2013 and also holds a seat on its board.

Contact Jenna Greene at jgreene@alm.com.

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