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LONDON - A High Court judge ruled today that Tesco has no right to import Levi's jeans from outside Europe and sell them at cut-rate prices, The Associated Press reports.
The ruling, which confirmed a decision in November by the European Court of Justice, marked a victory for Levi Strauss & Co. in its four-year battle with Tesco, Britain's largest grocery chain. The judge, Sir Nicholas Pumfrey, said Tesco and Costco have been selling Levi's jeans illegally.
The European Court of Justice had upheld an EU law requiring that trademark holders must give clear consent before their goods can be imported and sold within the 18-member European Economic Area.
The dispute flared after Tesco started importing Levi's 501 jeans from outside the European Union, where they are cheaper, and selling them at a discount to the prevailing retail prices in Britain.
Tesco argued in the High Court that Levi Strauss has violated basic international human rights in an effort to prevent cut-price jeans from entering the country. Tesco claimed that Levi Strauss has interfered with retailers' rights to freedom of expression and freedom to own and deal in property.
Pumfrey said the argument that the the San Francisco-based jeans maker has violated human rights was "devoid of any substance."
The court was to decide later about whether to grant an injunction to block Tesco and Costco from selling Levi's jeans. It also would decide later about whether to award any damages to Levi Strauss.
Tesco and Costco have the right to appeal.