Lawsuits put footwear companies on the spot
The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief for infringing on Skechers’ patent and trade dress rights and for unfair competition. The suit states that Reebok is “selling the infringing products under the name Reebok Walk Ahead RS. “
“Skechers has invested tremendous resources into designing, developing, advertising and patenting our Skechers Go Walk ® product line and has built Skechers Go Walk ® into a name and look globally recognized and synonymous with Skechers,” stated David Weinberg, Chief Operating Officer of Skechers. “While we prefer to compete in the market place, Reebok is selling its infringing footwear to Skechers wholesale customers and in other sales channels where Skechers Go Walk ® is sold, and we believe this is causing us enormous damage. Considering our investment in Skechers Go Walk ®, we cannot allow a company the size of Reebok, or any other company for that matter, to infringe on one of our most valuable intellectual properties. We plan on taking similar action against any company that develops any products that infringe on the patents and trade dress of Skechers Go Walk ® as well as our other proprietary product lines, and any retailer that sells Reebok Walk Ahead RS.”
Likewise, footwear company New Balance is filling a lawsuit for copyright infringement. They claim that the Paris based designer Karl Lagerfeld has “copied” the famous sneaker logo. Legal papers have been alleged filed against the 80 years old German designer claiming the use of the letter K on a pair of trainers from his new collection is too similar to New Balance's distinctive N. Such similarity has already been noted elsewhere, especially on the web where fashion bloggers have been pointing this out frequently since the collection was made public. The sneaker brand says "this creates confusion" between the two labels. The New balance sneakers retails for 112 USD, while the Karl Lagerfeld pair of sneakers costs over 350 USD.
If these new lawsuits will proceed or not, or if they will end up being decided at court or if settlements will be sorted outside the grounds of justice is unpredictable. However, such actions reveal that more than ever the industry seems to be paying more attention to elements such as patents and design protection, which characterizes and differentiates the brands in an increasingly competitive consumer market.