Converse Wins Trademark Battle Over Chuck Taylor’s Sole

Image courtesy of FailedImitator

As Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers have become as ubiquitous smartphones these days — heck, even your grandma might own a pair — parent company Nike has been trying block other retailers from cashing in on that popularity and selling copycat sneakers. The company just won one trademark battle over Chuck Taylor’s sole design, but is promising to keep fighting after an industry group said other aspects of the shoe’s style aren’t covered by the same protection.

In an effort to rid shelves of lookalike shoes, Converse filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission — an independent, bi-partisan, sorta-U.S. agency — in 2014, while also filing 22 separate trademark infringement lawsuits against companies like Walmart, Kmart, and Skechers.

The ITC ruled on Thursday that Converse’s distinctive outsole, with its diamond-shaped pattern, should be protected by trademark, barring any company from importing shoes that violate that trademark, reports The New York Times. The order applies not only to any company that may currently be selling shoes with that sole pattern, as well as any future knockoff attempts.

But in a win for retailers like Walmart, the commission said other parts of the Converse style, like its rubber-toe band, toe cap, and stripes — don’t have the same protections. This means other companies can import and sell shoes that look similar, as long as they don’t have a diamond outsole.

Nike says it will keep up the fight regardless.

“While we do not agree with all of the ITC’s findings, we feel confident our rights will be vindicated on appeal,” said Brian Fogarty, senior director, global intellectual property litigation at Nike. “This is but one step in a long process.”

If Converse had won an exclusion order from the ITC regarding those design aspects, it would’ve been able to go after any products that violated its trademark designs, even if those companies weren’t named in the original ITC complaint.

In the meantime, most of the 31 defendants in the Federal District Court case brought by Converse, including Kmart, have settled, the NYT notes, with only Walmart, Skechers, and Highline United remaining. Both Walmart and Skechers applauded the ITC’s decision.

“Walmart is an intellectual property owner and respects the intellectual property rights of others,” the company said.

For Chuck Taylor, a Sole Trademark Is Upheld [The New York Times]

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