If you grew up in America, you have almost certainly owned a pair of Converse All Stars at some point in your life. This simple and iconic shoe has been around for nearly a century, and has come to symbolize dozens or even hundreds of social groups throughout that time. Converse’s “Chuck Taylors” have been worn by athletes, hippies, greasers, the in-crowds, the out-crowds, punk rockers, baby boomers and just everyday American kids.
Our post last week focused on protecting intellectual property in the digital age. Recent lawsuits filed by Converse are a good reminder that it is also very important for companies to protect against trademark infringement on their physical goods as well as their digital intellectual property.
Converse recently filed 22 lawsuits against 31 companies it accuses of trademark infringement. Defendants include low-price retailers like Walmart and Kmart as well as rival shoe manufacturers like Skechers. It is also filing a complaint with the International Trade Commission to get foreign-made shoes off American shelves if they too closely resemble Converse All Stars.
The company filed for bankruptcy in the 1990s and was eventually purchased by Nike. The brand then experienced a resurgence and has since become a small-but-significant source of revenue for Nike.
Trademark infringement is difficult to prove in the fashion industry, in part, because laws cannot protect trademarks on functional aspects of clothing and footwear. But Converse alleges that other manufacturers are copying its particularly iconic design features, including white rubber soles with a black stripe in the middle and a rubber toe topper.
Trademark infringement litigation is one of the many important aspects of brand protection that business law attorneys help their clients with every day. In order to protect the things that are most important to your business, make sure you hire the right law firm to represent you in and out of court.
Source: The New York Times, “Converse Sues to Protect Its Chuck Taylor All Stars,” Rachel Abrams, Oct. 14, 2014