On Saturday, lawyers representing footwear brand, Skechers, filed a preemptive lawsuit against Adidas, alleging that the German brand had fraudulently accused it of patent infringement and urging the courts to preemptively dismiss those claims.
Skechers’ lawyers claimed Adidas instructed outside counsel to mail a letter to its offices, titled “Notice of Infringement,” that alleged patent infringement on the part of Skechers and demanded the immediate cessation of all manufacturing, distribution, advertising and sales of the product in question. In addition, Adidas requested Skechers’ sales data so as to appropriately determine a “monetary demand.”
Instead, Skechers went to court.
“Skechers seeks a judicial declaration that its marketing, distribution, and sale of the Skechers Skecher Street Goldie-Peaks Shoe do not infringe, dilute, or otherwise violate any of Adidas’ purported rights in its registered United States trademarks, or in any alleged common law rights Adidas claims to have acquired through its use of striped designs,” Skechers’ opening complaint read.
The shoe in question does appear to bear some resemblance to the classic three-stripe design that Adidas is attempting to protect with the lawsuit. However, Skechers countered by saying that it clearly designates itself as the source of any footwear it sells.
What’s more, Skechers’ lawyers continued, is that Adidas “operates in a crowded field of stripe designs” and that the “Three-Stripe Mark” was therefore only entitled to narrow protections under patent law—one which would not include the Goldie-Peaks shoe at risk in the suit.
To prove this point, Skechers lawyers provided more than 60 pages of evidence depicting other brands selling similar shoe styles. Brands like Marc Jacobs, Gucci and Tory Burch were well represented, including some similar shoes from Steve Madden and Tommy Hilfiger.
Skechers suggests the visual distinctions (logo, design differences, etc.) already in place are more than enough to prevent consumer confusion and invalidate Adidas’ claims.
“Given the profusion of these similar, third-party designs, consumers are unlikely to perceive the Midfoot Panel on the Goldie-Peaks Shoe as an execution of the Three-Stripe Mark or assume that the Goldie-Peaks Shoe is made by, sponsored by, approved by, or otherwise associated with Adidas,” the plaintiff’s defense concluded.
This is not the first time Skechers and Adidas have gone head-to-head in a federal court. In fact Adidas and Skechers have participated in no less than three separate patent lawsuits. In 2015, Adidas sued Skechers regarding sneakers that bore a resemblance to its own iconic Stan Smith designs. The court sided with Adidas in this case and prevented Skechers from continuing to benefit from the design. Then, in 2018, Skechers sued Adidas over an investigation that alleged Adidas had been illegally bribing college players in order to obtain their later endorsements. Skechers claimed Adidas was guilty of competition violations but the case was thrown out.
Like Levi’s, Adidas’ fervent defense of its patents involving numerous lawsuits against several footwear companies has caused some to label it a “trademark bully.”