Weeks after the mega retailer complained that the rapper-cum-fashion-designer’s tentative Yeezy brand sunburst logo too closely resembles its own, the “College Dropout” hitmaker and Wyoming resident along with his streetwear label filed a suit accusing Walmart of “unfair competition.” At issue? A “cheap knock-off” of the popular and polarizing Yeezy Foam Runner clog that launched in 2019 and has since spawned similarly peculiar successors. After originally debuting for $75, the Foam Runners are now listed in resale channels for $800 on StockX and $550 on GOAT Group-owned Flight Club.
The suit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, claims that by selling an “unauthorized exact copy” of the “sustainable” algae-based slip-on, Walmart effectively deprived West and Yeezy of “market share they otherwise would have had.” Consumers commenting on the product page for the $23.99 knockoff from seller Daeful illustrate the confusion, the suit says. (A message on the site now says the shoe is “unavailable or on backorder.) “My son has been wanting the yeezy slides but these look similar and are much more affordable,” one purchaser wrote in a June 19 review. This type of customer feedback “should have alerted Walmart to the presence of an imitation good being sold on its website,” the complaint read.
In a statement, Walmart pointed out that it doesn’t directly sell the offending footwear, clarifying that the dupe is offered by third-party marketplace sellers. “We take allegations like this seriously and are reviewing the claim,” it added. “We will respond in court as appropriate after we have been served with the complaint.”
Though Amazon takes most of the heat for failing to weed out counterfeits from its sprawling third-party marketplace, the Yeezy complaint underscores the difficulty similarly deep-pocketed retailers face with keeping ersatz and trademark-infringing goods out of their sandbox. Walmart says intellectual property rights owners can use its 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.”
And while the retailer also claims to “promptly process and investigate such claims and take appropriate actions under applicable laws,” the Yeezy suit, which is asking for monetary damages and a jury trial, states 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.
A Google search indicates that Walmart is far from the only merchant selling unauthorized clones of Kanye’s clogs. Wish, the app-based “mobile mall” that claims to offer “quality products at deep, deep discounts,” advertises a foam shoe visually indistinguishable from genuine Foam Runners and even includes “Kanye” in the descriptive product name.
The legal saga comes as West’s Yeezy deal with Gap finally unveiled its inaugural product—a cobalt puffer jacket that sparked a consumer frenzy when it landed on gap.com earlier this month. UBS pegged the value of West’s Gap partnership at $970 million before the pairing had produced even a single item.