Converse Sues 31 Brands For Trademark Infringement

Converse has sued up to 31 brands in 22 lawsuits for trademark infringement alleging that each company has copied its signature shoe, the Chuck Taylor sneaker. The companies sued range from affordable retail stores like Walmart and H&M, to competitors like Skechers, to high fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch.

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Converse Chuck Taylor Sneaker

Converse has claimed in its lawsuits that these brands and retailers have infringed the American shoe brand’s trademarks and have produced and sold shoes that are confusingly similar to the Chuck Taylors that Converse has become famous for. Specifically, Converse claims the infringement of the trademarks of the rubber stripe around the shoe and the pattern on the bottom of the shoe.

Converse has also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission. The ITC has the ability to stop the import of any products deemed counterfeit.

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Converse Chuck Taylor High Top Sneakers

Converse sneakers have become an icon in American fashion since the All Star was first introduced in 1917. Basketball player, Chuck Taylor became the spokesperson for the brand and the shoes were re-named for him. Throughout the past century, Chuck Taylors have been a staple in Americana fashion from the greasers of the 50’s and 60’s to the T-Birds in Grease in the 70’s to Rocky Balboa in Rocky in the 80’s.

However, the brand faced hard times in the 90’s and filed for bankruptcy. But, Nike’s purchase of the shoe brand in 2003 reinvigorated the brand and re-established it as a powerhouse in the fashion industry.

Converse’s CEO, Jim Calhoun told the New York Times that, “The goal really is to stop this action. I think we’re quite fortunate her to be in the possession of what we consider to be an American icon.”

And, that American icon status is probably why so many of these brands have attempted to emulate the success of the brand by “being inspired” by the shoe. However, this doesn’t give them the right to copy the design elements of the shoe.

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H&M Sneakers

To be successful in its claim, Converse has to prove the likelihood of confusion test under trademark law. The court will use several factors to determine the likelihood of confusion including: strength of the mark, similarity of the mark, similarity of the products, the infringer’s intent, actual confusion, and sophistication of buyers.

Basically, the court has to determine whether a consumer would be confused about the origin of the product. If a consumer believes that a shoe not produced by Converse are Chuck Taylors, then the shoe is infringing on Converse’s trademarks.

And, taking a look at the some of the shoes, the look pretty similar to Chuck Taylors. However, a defense that these brands could bring in these suits is the issue of genericness. If a mark is deemed generic, there is no trademark protection. These brands could argue that since Chuck Taylors have been around since 1917, they no longer hold any distinction and attribution to Converse and have become generic.

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Tory Burch Sneakers

However, Converse could then counter-argue that even though the shoes have been produced and sold for almost 100 years, they have always been linked to Converse and therefore are warranted protection.

The brands sued in these lawsuits have yet to respond, but based on the magnitude of the number of brands sued, this will definitely be a hot topic in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates!

Beeta J.

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