Nike’s Converse brand lost a battle to protect some trademarked features of its iconic Chuck Taylor sneakers as a U.S. agency declined to block importation of some famous rival brands.
The U.S. International Trade Commission said a trademark for the Chuck Taylor sneaker’s striped midsole is not valid, spelling a loss for Converse and a win for defendants including Skechers U.S.A., New Balance Athletic Shoe and Wal-Mart Stores.
The commission upheld trademark protection for the outsole, or bottom of the shoe.
Converse filed the complaint in November 2014, claiming there was rampant copying of the iconic shoe, beloved by athletes, celebrities and skateboarding teens, with more than 1 billion Chuck Taylor All Stars sold over the past century.
A key issue is whether specific features of the Chuck have become so well known they have developed what’s called a “secondary meaning.”
The commission staff, which acts as the public interest in the case, recommended that no violation be found because the companies had been selling their shoes for years before Converse obtained the registered trademarks since 2006.
A trade judge did a shoe-by-shoe analysis of the trademarks. Skechers’ Daddy’$ Money and HyDee HyTop, Wal-Mart’s Faded Glory and New Balance’s Bob Cousy and Center models copy the trademarks, the judge said. Skechers’ Twinkle Toes and Bobs Utopia, Wal-Mart’s Kitch and New Balance’s Sum Fun shoes do not, he said.
Each side challenged aspects of the case they lost.