A five-year-old Converse and Skechers legal battle was renewed last week—and Skechers has already declared itself the victor.
According to a Skechers press release, a judge speaking for the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) ruled that certain Skechers footwear named in a 2014 complaint levied by Converse do not infringe upon trademarks held by the maker of the Chuck Taylor.
The original complaint was one of many sent out by Converse that year, 31 in total, and alleged that several of Skechers’ designs infringed upon trademarks granted to the Nike-owned brand in 2001. Most of those companies settled with Converse out of court, however, Skechers decided it wanted to pursue litigation instead.
In its complaint, Converse said that several Skechers styles had infringed on trademarks related to the Chuck Taylor midsole, including Skechers’ “Twinkle Toes” children’s sneaker and its BOBS product line.
Skechers claims that the ruling delivered by Charles E. Bullock, chief administrative law judge for the USITC, counted as a “resounding victory” in the case and increased the probability of a favorable conclusion to the dispute between the two footwear brands.
In the ruling, Skechers said Judge Bullock found no violation of the trademark by any of the styles named in the case and further ruled that the Chuck Taylor trademark in question is “not valid as to Skechers” due to the fact that the brand was using similar trademarks
“We are pleased that Judge Bullock recognized that Skechers has been using these designs long before Converse acquired any trademark rights in them,” Michael Greenberg, president of Skechers, said in a statement. “We are also pleased that multiple decisions repeatedly recognized that the Twinkle Toes and BOBS from Skechers designs are distinctively different from the Chuck Taylor design, and that there is no likelihood that consumers would ever confuse either Twinkle Toes or BOBS products with the Converse design.
“These rulings validate Skechers investment in its distinctive designs and brand identity, an investment that has helped build Twinkle Toes into a number one shoe line for young girls, and build both Twinkle Toes and BOBS into household names synonymous with Skechers—not with Converse or any other brand,” Greenberg added.
The judge’s ruling found that the unique features of the Twinkle Toes line were sufficient to “create enough differences that the shoes bearing them cannot be said to be similar to [the Chuck Taylor].” Additionally, Skechers said that the judge ruled there was no likelihood its BOBS line could be confused with Chuck Taylor sneakers.
However, the friction between the two brands extends even to the interpretation of these rulings and, in the past, both sides have declared victory in the same case. In 2015, Converse and Skechers disagreed about what the initial ruling meant to the point that it appeared the court had ruled that Skechers had both infringed and not infringed in the same case.
A 2016 ruling following that dispute found that Converse’s trademark rights were not enforceable, which the brand appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circut. That appeal was sent right back to the USITC in 2018, where it stayed until the most recent ruling.
The bad blood between Nike and Skechers goes deep, as the two brands have been fighting in court for years. Most recently, Nike sued Skechers for alleged “Skecherized” knockoffs, seeking injunctions for several products it said infringed on its patents for the Nike Air Max sneaker line.
Skechers responded by running an ad in the Portland Business Journal, alleging that Nike had contacted its retail partners to warn them that they were making infringing products. In the ad, Skechers called Nike a “bully” and vowed to protect itself and its retail partners from litigation.