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Kanye Settles Walmart Yeezy Knockoff Lawsuit

Kanye West and his Yeezy brand have resolved at least one of their legal disputes with Walmart.

Ye, who is now lashing out at his footwear partner Adidas, filed paperwork on June 3 requesting the court dismiss a complaint he brought nearly a year earlier accusing the mega-retailer of selling a “cheap” Yeezy “knock-off.” Walmart had filed paperwork on April 1 alerting the court that the parties reached a conditional settlement. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The original unfair competition complaint alleged Walmart’s e-commerce site had listed an “unauthorized exact copy” of Yeezy’s distinctive Foam Runner clog. In doing so, the suit argued, the retailer effectively deprived Ye and Yeezy of “market share they otherwise would have had.”

In a statement issued at the time, Walmart said it did not sell the offending footwear, placing the blame on the third-party seller, Daeful. A message saying the $23.99 knock-offs were “unavailable or on backorder” appeared on the product page soon after Ye filed his complaint.

The Grammy winner, however, contended that customer feedback “should have alerted Walmart to the presence of an imitation good being sold on its website.” The complaint included numerous customer comments and reviews, including many that explicitly mentioned Yeezy or Kanye West. “Honestly pretty good for 20 bucks , really comfortable in hand look identical to the actual foam runner yeezy,” wrote one user. “They’re budget Yeezy Foam Runners,” said another.

Walmart’s website allows intellectual property rights owners to use an online IP Claim Form to “report legitimate claims of infringement as to items listed on Walmart.com, including claims of copyright, trademark, patent, publicity and counterfeit.” Ye’s suit claimed that Walmart “either failed or refused to comply” with a June 23 Notice of Claimed Infringement demanding it remove the “YEEZY FOAN [sic] RUNNER Imitation Shoes” from its website. The performer filed his unfair competition complaint the following day, June 24.

Walmart responded to Ye’s complaint in September by challenging its basic legitimacy. “It is utterly unclear as to what conduct of defendant’s allegedly constitutes an unfair business practice,” its lawyers wrote. The retailer further argued that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protected it from claims arising from products offered by third-party sellers.

Though Ye and Walmart eventually settled their differences on this front, the two parties have yet to reach a resolution on a trademark disagreement predating the knock-off lawsuit.

Yeezy first applied for a sun-shaped service mark—the logo consists of eight radiating rays made up of a series of dots—in January 2020. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the mark for opposition that December. In April last year, Walmart, which owns its own sunburst logo—it consists of six, solid radiating rays—lodged an official objection, stating that the design “is likely to cause confusion and lead to consumer deception.”

On Nov. 11, weeks after submitting its response to an amended notice of opposition filed by Walmart, Yeezy requested the court suspend the proceedings for 60 days “to allow the parties to continue their settlement efforts.” The USPTO granted the request. Yeezy has since continued to request a suspension every couple months, with the USPTO granting each request. The proceedings are currently set to resume July 16.

Last week, Ye attacked his long-time footwear partner Adidas in a since-deleted Instagram post, accusing it of selling a “fake Yeezy.” His ire centered on the Adilette 22 slides Adidas launched this month. The footwear shares neither the ridged bottom nor the smooth overall design of the Yeezy Slide.

Ye’s tirade included an oblique reference to Kobe Bryant that hinted at a potential split with Adidas. In December 2020, the angel investor and Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar claimed he met with the late basketball star weeks before his sudden death to discuss a potential player-owned footwear company called Mamba separate from the former Laker’s lucrative Nike deal.

“Driving down the same street Kobe passed on,” Ye wrote. “Maybe I feel that Mamba spirit right now[.] To [Adidas CEO] Kasper [Rørsted,] I’m not standing for this blatant copying no more.”

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