Adidas Sues Skechers Over Knockoff Stan Smith Sneakers - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Adidas Sues Skechers Over Knockoff Stan Smith Sneakers

Adidas Sues Skechers Over Knockoff Stan Smith Sneakers

Do you think you would have been able to tell the difference between these two sneakers on the street?

This Skechers knockoff of the iconic Adidas Stan Smith sneaker is adding fuel to the fire of a competitive rivalry between Adidas and Skechers. As consumers are increasingly choosing walking and “fashion-casual” shoes over running sneakers, Skechers has pulled into second place in the sports footwear market, with 5% of the market share, surpassing Adidas’ 4.6% share.1 Though running shoes are still by far the most popular type of sneaker in the U.S., the growth in Skechers’ sales—up 29% last year—has mostly come from its casual and walking segments.2 So it is not surprising that Skechers would want to rip off Adidas’ wildly popular Stan Smiths, and accordingly, Adidas has filed a complaint in Oregon federal court.

This is not the first lawsuit Adidas has filed against Skechers. According to the complaint, Skechers signed a settlement agreement after Adidas sued back in 1995, and has repeatedly signed confidential agreements over the past few years to settle claims over allegedly infringing shoes.3 Adidas has recently been very willing to protect its intellectual property in this manner, having sued Marc Jacobs4 earlier this year over its alleged misuse of the brand’s three stripe mark.5

Adidas claims to have been fending off Skechers’ repeated attempts to encroach on its famous three-stripe mark for nearly 20 years—an assault on Adidas’ trademark rights.6 Adidas has been using the three-stripe design on shoes for decades, and founder Adolf Dassler—or Adi Das—reportedly called his business “the three stripe company.”7 Adidas owns numerous U.S. trademark registrations on it, both as it appears on footwear and apparel and as a standalone logo.8

 

skechers-adidas-court-doc-comparison

Image: Court documents

 

Adidas claims that Skechers is producing a shoe that “imitates every element of the Stan Smith trade dress,” as well as using keyword meta data to quietly market it to consumers searching for the Adidas sneaker.9 Skechers’ bad faith intent to trade off of Adidas’ goodwill is further made clear by Skechers’ inclusion of ‘Adidas,’ ‘Stan Smith’ and ‘Adidas original’ in the source code for Skechers’s website. Thus, searching for ‘Adidas Stan Smith’ or ‘Adidas originals’ on www.skechers.com directs consumers to the Stan Smith knockoff.”10

The Adidas three-stripe design trademark is as analogous to the Louboutin signature lacquered red sole trademark, which was successfully held valid and enforceable by the Second Circuit in September 2012, where the court held that the contrasting lacquered red sole held secondary meaning and therefore serves an aesthetic function, which means that the red sole is essential to the use or purpose of the shoe.11 This holding makes sense because the contrasting red sole on shoes has become a symbol that consumers associate with Louboutins.

The test that courts use for trademark infringement is a consumer confusion test, which means that the court may look at a number of factors, including: (1) the strength of the mark; (2) the proximity of the goods; (3) the similarity of the marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) the similarity of marketing channels used; (6) the degree of caution exercised by the typical purchaser; (7) the defendant’s intent.12 Adidas probably has a strong case, as the Skechers Onix sneaker looks very similar to the Adidas Stan Smith sneaker, with the only major noticeable difference being the location, number, and pattern of perforations on the side of the shoe. Additionally, there is evidence of a bad faith intent established by the source code on the Skechers website linking searches for ‘Adidas’ or ‘Stan Smith’ to the Skechers Onix sneaker.

The reason for having a trademark is to protect a brand, an identity, the value of a product, and the consumer. Sketchers, by creating an Adidas Stan Smith knockoff, is not only taking a stab at the Adidas brand, identity, and the value of its Stan Smith sneakers, but it is also confusing consumers who may see Stan Smiths worn all over the world and think that they may be Skechers when they see them in a store.

Regardless of which party prevails in court, it is important to consider where you would draw the line between knock-offs and novel designs, especially in the fashion world, where designers often strive for innovative designs, yet knock-offs are far too common.

 


  1. The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service (12ME May’12–12ME May’14); Susie Poppick, Why Skechers Is Suddenly Beating Adidas and New Balance, Time (May 19, 2015), http://time.com/money/3886839/skechers-nike-adidas-most-popular-sneaker-america/ [http://perma.cc/7G4C-4ACG].

  2. Susie Poppick, Why Skechers Is Suddenly Beating Adidas and New Balance, Time (May 19, 2015), http://time.com/money/3886839/skechers-nike-adidas-most-popular-sneaker-america/ [http://perma.cc/7G4C-4ACG].

  3. Bill Donahue, Adidas Sues Skechers Over ‘Assault’ On Trademark Rights, Law360 (Sept. 16, 2015, 2:21 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/703351/adidas-sues-skechers-over-assault-on-trademark-rights [http://perma.cc/LXN9-DQPV].

  4. Brandon Richard, adidas Sues Marc Jacobs Over the Use of Its Stripe Design, SoleCollector.com (Apr. 10, 2015), http://solecollector.com/news/adidas-sues-marc-jacobs/ [http://perma.cc/KMB5-S24K].

  5. Brendan Dunne, Adidas Is Suing Skechers Over This Blatant Ripoff Sneaker, SoleCollector.com (Sept. 15, 2015), http://solecollector.com/news/adidas-skechers-stan-smith-lawsuit/#ixzz3mUeV8pUS [http://perma.cc/3FAE-VS5F].

  6. Bill Donahue, Adidas Sues Skechers Over ‘Assault’ On Trademark Rights, Law360 (Sept. 16, 2015, 2:21 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/703351/adidas-sues-skechers-over-assault-on-trademark-rights [http://perma.cc/LXN9-DQPV].

  7. Bill Donahue, Adidas Sues Skechers Over ‘Assault’ On Trademark Rights, Law360 (Sept. 16, 2015, 2:21 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/703351/adidas-sues-skechers-over-assault-on-trademark-rights [http://perma.cc/LXN9-DQPV].

  8. Bill Donahue, Adidas Sues Skechers Over ‘Assault’ On Trademark Rights, Law360 (Sept. 16, 2015, 2:21 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/703351/adidas-sues-skechers-over-assault-on-trademark-rights [http://perma.cc/LXN9-DQPV].

  9. Bill Donahue, Adidas Sues Skechers Over ‘Assault’ On Trademark Rights, Law360 (Sept. 16, 2015, 2:21 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/703351/adidas-sues-skechers-over-assault-on-trademark-rights [http://perma.cc/LXN9-DQPV].

  10. Dennis Green, Two sneaker companies are at war over this shoe from the ’60s, Business Insider (Sept. 16, 2015, 2:52 PM), http://www.businessinsider.com/adidas-is-suing-skechers-for-allegedly-ripping-off-the-stan-smith-2015-9 [http://perma.cc/6HLB-B9K3].

  11. See Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent America Holding, Inc., 696 F.3d 206 (2d Cir. 2012).

  12. Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Elect. Corp., 287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 820 (1961).

Bryan Rahmanan

Bryan Rahmanan is a second year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. He has prior experiences in brand licensing and is fascinated by the intersection between intellectual property law and fashion.