Recently we posted about a company called Worsted-Tex and how it used the term “Ivy League” to sell mass-market clothing as soon as the heyday of the Ivy League Look took off.
In 1960 the company began filing lawsuits against other brands that were using variations of the term “Ivy” in their products. In a case filed against Superba Cravats, which was using the terms “Ivy Hall” and “Ivy Loom,” Worsted-Tex claimed it had been using the term “Ivy League” as far back as 1938. That’s some tremendous business foresight, since the term wouldn’t become popular, and thereby valuable, for another 16 years.
However, in a scene that plays out like some kind of forum/blog war from 2008, when asked to provide vintage “Ivy League” advertisements, Worsted-Tex came up short and couldn’t provide any marketing documents showing use of the term going back to ’38.
The story was brought to our attention by comment-leaver “JJ Rexford,” who on the recent post left a comment linking to the lawsuits, which were posted on The Ivy League Look blog back in 2009.
The public record of the lawsuit (which you lawyers, or at least guys who watch a lot of legal dramas on TV, will be able to follow better than me) has this curious passage, in which the opposer — that’s Worsted-Tex — makes the remark that although “Ivy League” can to a group of eastern colleges, when used in the clothing industry it refers not just to a style of suit, but specifically a suit by Worsted-Tex:
Opposer admits that “the words `Ivy League’ connote a group of certain eastern universities when used in their general sense” but would have us believe that “nevertheless they refer only to the appellant’s product when they are used in the clothing industry.” In other words an “Ivy League” suit means to the purchasing public only a suit originating with opposer.
Worsted-Tex lost its case against Superba Cravats, The summary has this interesting passage:
At the very least, the record shows that “Ivy League” has a primary meaning according to which it indicates a group of eastern colleges and universities and, by extension, things and matters pertaining thereto. In the clothing field “Ivy League” clothing would indicate to persons familiar with the “Ivy League” educational institutions — and their number is legion — styles somehow associated therewith. It would require much to develop a secondary meaning whereby the public would come to associate “Ivy League” clothing with a single manufacturer or vendor. The record here fails to show such a secondary meaning. For this reason opposer has failed to establish an exclusive right to the term “Ivy League” in the clothing field and cannot, therefore, show damage from the registration of applicant’s marks.
And Superba Cravats wasn’t the only company Worsted-Tex went after. Wonder if they claimed ownership of the term “continental” a few years later? — CC