Milkcrate Athletics and its founder, Aaron LaCrate, have filed two trademark infringement lawsuits in New York’s Southern District Court over the past week—both alleging that major athletic brands, specifically Under Armour and Adidas, have profited illegally from the streetwear brand’s trademarks and ideas.
Although separate lawsuits have been filed for each brand, there remains a common thread through both. Namely, that LaCrate and his organization had previously been tapped to either discuss, create or assist with a collaboration with the brands and, although ideas were passed from one to the other, no final deal was made with Milkcrate Athletics.
Instead, LaCrate and his legal team allege, both brands simply took the trademarks and logos that define Milkcrate Athletics and used them on their own products.
For Under Armour, in particular, Milkcrate’s complaint claims the brand used the Milkcrate logo (a cartoon drawing of an actual milk crate) on products to promote the brand’s annual Elite 24 Basketball Event. According to the filing, apparel and accessories distributed to athletes, employees and spectators at the event displayed a logo that was “extremely similar, if not identical” to Milkcrate’s own logo.
And according to LaCrate, it’s no coincidence. In 2010, the designer and founder went to Under Armour headquarters to film a television show with the artist, will.i.am. The suit says that, while there, Milkcrate’s founder spoke directly with the senior director of the brand’s professional leagues department.
LaCrate, who has collaborated with brands like New Balance and Vans, and with artists like Jay-Z and Eminem, was rejected by Under Armour via email in 2015—but he says that was only the end of his side of the story.
“At the time that LaCrate was sharing his thoughts, ideas, concepts, designs, and brand with Under Armour’s top fashion, sports, and marketing executives, he did so in the good faith hope that he would collaborate with, or at least be treated professionally by Under Armour, and not have his creations simply taken from him without compensation nor recognition,” LaCrate’s legal team explained, according to the World IP Review.
As far as the Adidas lawsuit, it too stems from an abandoned collaboration—this time with a third, well-known entity. LaCrate’s lawsuit alleges that both Adidas and the parent company that owns the Brooklyn Nets, BSE Global, used Milkcrate’s logo in a deal between the two that his business was not involved in. Allegedly, an Adidas T-shirt made with the Brooklyn Nets logo featured an image that bears non-coincidental resemblance to Milkcrate’s logo.
Although Under Armour is relatively quiet when it comes to patent infringement lawsuits, Adidas has been a frequent participant. Its court battle with Skechers is still ongoing and it lost a patent lawsuit to Puma in 2016.
Neither complaint filed by Milkcrate Athletics had been answered officially by Under Armour or Adidas at publication time.