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Nike, Foot Locker Suit Centers on Seminal Surfing Film

Nike and Champs Sports may have run afoul of trademark laws in a case featuring a classic mid-’60s surfing flick.

In a lawsuit filed on March 17, Nike and Foot Locker are alleged to have infringed on the trademarked intellectual property of the 1966 documentary, “The Endless Summer.”

In its complaint, Bruce Brown Films, LLC (a company founded by the film’s late director) said Nike and Foot Locker subsidiary Champs Sports cooperated on a marketing campaign dubbed “Endless Summer,” designed to associate a collection of orange-and-blue Nike sneakers with the seminal surfing film.

“As a direct and proximate result of [Nike and Foot Locker’s] use of the trademarks and other indicia…the public has been and/or is likely to be confused, deceived and/or to falsely believe that there is an association between [Bruce Brown Films, LLC] on the one hand, and Footlocker’s Champs stores and Nike, on the other,” the complaint read.

The complaint points to elements of the film’s marketing and trade dress, such as “a series of stylized blue waves with a large orange sun” as primary elements of the defendant’s marketing campaign. 

Nike and Foot Locker subsidiary Champ Sports are going to court regarding a marketing campaign referencing surf movie "Endless Summer."
Bruce Brown Films, LLC alleges Champ Sports and Nike’s marketing campaign improperly used trademarked IP to sell their products. Courtesy of Filing

The infringing campaign ran from May through August 2019, according to the complaint, and was advertised by the retail partners online and in all Champs stores in the U.S. This conflicts with the assertion made by the plaintiff that it owns exclusive rights to license “Endless Summer” brands for promotional, media and retail use.

Bruce Brown Films, LLC issued a cease-and-desist letter shortly thereafter but received no response.

The film continues to be “highly profitable,” the company said, and the marketing campaign knowingly “traded on the fame and goodwill” associated with the film. According to the complaint, apparel, accessories and other memorabilia related to the film are available for purchase through licensing deals and are now likely to be confused with Nike products sold by Champ Sports due to the promotion.

Bruce Brown Films, LLC seeks monetary damages as a result of dilution, trademark infringement and unfair competition.