Plaintiff LVL XIII Brands Inc. (“LVL XIII”) must not have heard of the old saying: “Never strike a king unless you are sure you shall kill him.” The New York start-up sneaker company decided to take on fashion king Louis Vuitton over a metal plate attached to high-end men’s sneakers. LVL XIII’s claims were dismissed last week on summary judgment in a 107 page opinion.
Hopefully, Plaintiff LVL XIII fared better last week with its presentation during New York Fashion Week show pictured above. You may have heard of LVL XIII sneakers, because famous people such as Jason Derulo and Chris Brown have touted the sneakers on television and in magazines.
In the lawsuit, Plaintiff alleged that Louis Vuitton was engaged in trademark infringement and unfair competition by using its rectangular metal toe plate. Examples of the toe plates at the heart of the dispute are depicted below.
The Court began its analysis of the motion for summary judgment by explaining that for a trademark to have protection, it must be “distinctive.” An “inherently distinctive” trademark is one in which “intrinsic nature serves to identify a particular source.” Plaintiff’s mark did not meet this standard. Accordingly, the Court had to turn to whether the mark had “acquired distinctiveness” by achieving “secondary meaning” among the relevant consumers. This means that “in the minds of the public, the primary significance of a product feature is to identify the source (e.g., LVL XIII) rather than the product itself (e.g. the sneaker toe patch).
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