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Puma Settles 4-Month-Old Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

Puma has reached a settlement with the Brooklyn artist who sued it for trademark infringement less than four months ago.

The pair submitted a joint filing with a Manhattan federal court Tuesday stating that they had reached a negotiated settlement and requesting the dismissal of their respective claims and counterclaims.

Christophe Roberts, an artist whose clients have ranged from Nike to Gatorade and who has specialized in creating sculptures from upcycled shoe boxes, originally sued Puma in late March for allegedly using his trademarked “Roar” calling card on its products and in its advertising campaigns.

The artist hit a speed bump in May when a federal judge rejected his motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Roberts had failed to establish a likelihood of success, according to the judge. Puma’s teeth designs, he added, were ultimately not similar to Roberts’ and there was little evidence of actual confusion or bad faith.

Puma filed to cancel Roberts’ trademark days later on the grounds of non-use and abandonment. The artist, it said, had not used the Roar mark on T-shirts, hoodies and jackets continuously since 2012, including not in 2018 or 2019. Roberts has claimed he only temporarily closed his online shop and plans to reopen it soon.

According to his original suit, Roberts first began using the mark—a hand-drawn outline of sharp teeth—on all of his art and social media in or around 2013. By early 2014, he claimed, he had begun using the design in commerce.

Roberts said he met long-time Puma collaborator Emory Jones in January 2018 at an exhibition he had created for The Gatorade Co. After the event, he claims Jones hired several people who worked with him on the installation. That June, he notes, Puma began using the disputed teeth design. The company has pushed back on this implication, asserting that Jones did not “create, direct or contribute to the development of the teeth graphics.”

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Puma began publicly using the design as part of its renewed push into basketball. It appeared on merchandise—including shirts, jackets and sweatshirts—as well as in advertisements and marketing. As Puma expanded its use of the design, Roberts said he received messages sent from friends, fans and professionals who assumed he was collaborating with the company.

In December 2018, Roberts filed to trademark the image for use on T-shirts, hoodies and jackets. In August 2019—a few months before the United States Patent and Trademark Office ultimately registered the mark—the artist sent a cease and desist letter to Puma.

Based on his discussions with the footwear company, Roberts said it was his understanding that Puma did not intend to use the mark for sale, that it had limited sales of merchandise with the mark and that it did not intend to continue using it. In its formal response to the suit, Puma largely disputes these claims, only allowing that certain products in Roberts’ original letter were promotional items.

Since 2019, Puma has continued using the design. Numerous items are available on Puma’s website bearing the teeth, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts and sweatpants. In his suit, Roberts claimed that the “blatant infringement” was irreparably harming him by “flooding the market” with merchandise bearing his mark.

Ultimately, the artist accused Puma of trademark infringement and unfair competition under federal and New York state law, as well as trademark dilution.