-Martha Engel, Attorney
Maybe I haven’t quite accepted the fact that the US Open and New York Fashion Week are over and September almost is too, but stories on tennis and fashion always get my attention, especially when they include a little intellectual property infringement flair.
The Stan Smith shoe is a legendary shoe design from Adidas named after the US tennis player (and US Open Champion) who famously wore them in the 1970s.
Last week, Adidas sued Skechers over claims that the Skechers Onix infringed Adidas’ trademark rights in its Stan Smith shoe. Here is a photograph of the Skechers Onix:
Notice any similarities? Actually, perhaps the better question is – do you notice any differences? Sure, the shape of the toe is a little different, at least in the photos the toungue looks a little different, the number of rivets for the shoelace also differs, and perhaps the most obvious distinction – the shoe has five stripes versus the iconic 3-stripe design on the Adidas version. But don’t let the number of stripes or their angle lead you to a conclusion that that’s a sufficient difference, it certainly hasn’t stopped Adidas before (see here and here). So do you think Skechers has a problem here?
According to a Law360 article on the subject, this isn’t the first challenge from Adidas on the striping issue. Adidas has been prolific in protecting its three-stripe from use by other shoe manufactures and designers, but with Skechers the parties signed a settlement agreement in 1995 and have a pattern of reaching additional confidential agreements to handle similar claims over the past several years. Maybe what forced their toe over the line here is that Skechers appeared to be using “adidas Originals” and “Stan Smith” as keywords (although when I tried to search today, neither of those phrases brought me to any shoes on the Skechers site and keyword advertising rulings haven’t exactly gone in brand owners’ favor). Or maybe it’s that Skechers last year sued Adidas-owned Reebok for patent infringement.
But Skechers isn’t the only one out there making white leather tennis court shoes with perforations and colored heel tabs. What about this pair from Nike, with its perforated swoosh and additional stitching line?
Or this Isabel Marant sneaker? I got a kick out of this comparison (and yes, pun intended there), where the $80 Adidas shoe is considered the “save” over the $400 “splurge” designer version.
Or this from Saint Laurent?
Do any of these look like they should get the same attention from Adidas that Skechers is getting?