Nike is suing 31 companies over trademark infringements related to its Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. Copycats of the iconic shoes that debuted in 1917 have been on the market for decades and Nike has owned the company since 2003, so what leaves me scratching my head is — what took so long to file the lawsuit?
The Associated Press is reporting that Converse is suing Skechers USA, Walmart Stores Inc., FILA, Ed Hardy, K-Mart Corp. and Ralph Lauren Corp., among many others. It says the companies are infringing on trademarks that cover the look of the shoe and the diamond pattern on the bottom of the sole.
Converse President and CEO Jim Calhoun said in a company statement:
"For generations, the Chuck Taylor, universally known as the 'Chuck,' has captured the hearts and minds of millions of consumers, selling over a billion pairs globally during the past century. We welcome fair competition, but we do not believe companies have a right to copy the Chuck's trademarked look."
The North Andover, Massachusetts, company filed 22 separate lawsuits Tuesday in the Eastern District of New York and at the International Trade Commission. The lawsuits came only after the company issued about 180 cease and desist letters since 2008 asking retailers to stop selling imitation shoes.
A recent New York Times article indicates that by using Nike's larger distribution channels, Converse has increased its popularity in foreign markets. This increase in popularity has contributed to an explosion in knockoff activity. The complaint with the trade commission includes four companies based in China, and Calhoun says that cease-and-desist letters are no longer enough to keep look-alikes at bay.
The lawsuits could be hard to win for Nike however, because trademark infringement can be difficult to prove in the fashion world. Currently, the law does not allow companies to protect aspects of their designs that are functional, and companies must also prove that consumers associate the specific design with the manufacturer.
What Do You Think?
Were companies willfully infringing on Converse trademarks? Should Converse and Nike have done something sooner to curb the copycatting? Are companies just cashing in on success? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.