25 November 2014

Converse sues firms over trade mark shoe

Converse is suing 31 companies over its famous Chuck Taylor shoe. The US shoemaker is suing the companies, including big retailers such as Wal-Mart and Ralph Lauren, arguing they are copying the design of its trade mark shoe.

Converse chief executive Jim Calhoun said the company welcomed fair competition, but "we do not believe companies have a right to copy the Chuck's trade marked look".

Converse said it owns trade marks and trade dress for the shoe’s “distinctive midsole design made up of a toe bumper and a toe cap, plus an upper strike and/or a lower stripe”.

It added that the defendants had been selling “confusingly similar” imitations in similar channels of trade, resulting in a likely confusion.

The popularity of Converse's Chuck Taylor sneaker has increased over the decades since it was introduced on US basketball courts in 1917. Converse says it has sold one billion pairs of the shoe around the world and spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising the product.

The shoemaker also says it has served about 180 cease and desist letters to retailers selling look-a-like Chuck Taylor sneakers in the past six years to protect its brand.

It is notoriously difficult to win a trademark case in the fashion context; however, two years ago luxury shoemaker Louboutin successfully trade marked its distinctive red soles.

Trade mark law is all about whether the average consumer would be confused as to the source of the product when they look at it. In order for Converse to win they will have to show that the average consumer would associate the design features of that shoe with them.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) will investigate the retailers and shoe designers accused and will set a target for completing its investigation within 45 days.

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