Adidas Sues Skechers in Its Latest Attempt to Defend Its Brand
A designer brand would not be just that without a slew of “knock-offs” accompanying it. And knock-off is exactly what Adidas claims Skechers did in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in federal court in Oregon on September 14. The German sportswear company is alleging that Skechers has been selling several shoe styles far too similar to its designs. Most notably similar are Adidas’ popular “Stan Smith” tennis shoe, created in 1973 for the tennis star, and Skechers’ “Onix” sneaker. Both styles are made of white leather and feature green markings on the heel and tongue with perforations on the sides of the shoes.
Adidas issued a statement explaining that it filed the lawsuit “to protect its valuable intellectual property and to put an end to a long-term pattern of unlawful conduct by Skechers to sell shoes that infringe Adidas’ rights.” The statement went on to say that “Adidas will not stand silently while Skechers copies the iconic Stan Smith shoe and uses terms like ‘adidas Originals’ and ‘Stan Smith’ as keywords on its website to divert customers looking for authentic adidas shoes.” The complaint filed indeed points to the source code for Skechers’ web site as evidence of Skechers acting in bad faith. Such evidence is particularly noteworthy, considering that the long-held standard for trademark infringement is whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” that consumers will think the alleged infringing product comes from the trademark owner. Courts have in the past also looked to a defendant’s intent in determining whether infringement occurred.
In addition to the alleged infringement on the Stan Smith design, Adidas claims that Skechers is selling a “Relaxed Fit: Cross Court TR” sneaker that features its widely recognized three-stripe logo. The German company is asking for a permanent injunction, damages, and attorneys’ fees. Skechers has yet to comment on the pending suit.
This is not the first time Adidas has litigated to protect its brand power. The sportswear giant over the years has filed lawsuits against others, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Payless ShoeSource Inc., Steven Madden Ltd., and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. The company has noticeably increased its trademark litigation recently though, filing separate lawsuits against retailers Marc Jacobs International LLC, Forever 21, Inc., and Sears, Roebuck and Co. all within just the last five months. Most of the litigation concerns Adidas’ three-stripe trademark.
These recent lawsuit filings have those in the fashion community wondering if high fashion designers will be the company’s next targets. Anyone who even remotely pays attention to fashion trends will have probably noticed that fashion sneakers are having a bit of a moment right now. Designers Isabel Marant and Alexander McQueen seem to have gleaned, er, inspiration from Adidas’ Stan Smith style. Both Isabel Marant’s “Bart” and Alexander McQueen’s “Oversized Sneaker” prominently feature colored heel tabs very similar to those of the Stan Smith. Such designs, among others, will test how far Adidas intends to go in defending its brand.
So although New York Fashion Week may be over, fortunately, litigation is forever.