UPDATE 6/18/2008: The Court entered a consent judgment permanently enjoining the defendant from selling any shoes that infringe on Nike’s design patents, trade dress, and trademarks.
Los Angeles, CA – Nike’s patent attorneys filed a patent infringement, trade dress infringement, and Lanham Act § 43(a) unfair competition (15 U.S.C. § 1125) complaint at the Federal District Court in Los Angeles. Nike’s complaint recounts the beginning of Nike’s relationship with Michael Jordan and his endorsement deal, which resulted in the creation of the most famous signature shoe of all time – the Air Jordan®. When the shoes first debuted in 1985, they were initially banned by the NBA for the bold styling and color, but Michael Jordan incurred fines of $5,000 per game and wore his famous shoes. Every year thereafter, Nike unveiled a new Air Jordan model, which models have become collectors’ items and fans often line up to purchase new designs and limited re-releases of previous styles. Nike has protected the new designs of the shoes by obtaining design patents, trademarks, and trade dress rights.
The Air Jordan® VII shoe, which Jordan wore during the 1992 Olympics, was awarded U.S. Patent No. Design 325,291. The Air Jordan® XI shoe, considered one of the most popular shoes of all-time, was awarded U.S. Patent No. Design 371,898. The Air Jordan® XII shoe, which Jordan wore against the Jazz when he was ill with the flu, was awarded U.S. Patent No. Design 380,082. The Air Jordan® XIII shoe, which has sold more than 2 million pairs in the U.S., was awarded U.S. Patent No. Design 387,591 and U.S. Patent No. Design 387,850. Nike alleges that the Defendant “has sought to make a name for itself not through its own innovation, strategic investment, and design, but by explicitly appropriating the patented design and trade dress of not one, but four separate models of Air Jordan® shoes.” The complaint asserts that the Defendant “has copied the design and trade dress of the entire “upper” of each of these shoes, including the unique shape of the leather on the inside and outside of the shoe . . . the iconic lacing with exterior webbing on the shoe upper . . . the sunburst design . . . and the unique shape of the leather on the inside and outside of the shoe upper…”
The case is titled Nike, Inc. v. Not For Noth’N LLC, aka Gourment, CV 08-1894 RGK (C.D. Cal. 2008).
PRACTICE NOTE: Nike has used both design patents and trade dress rights to protect its shoes’ designs. Trade dress protection continues in the design so long as the trade dress is being used by the owner; whereas, design patents expire after fourteen years. Thus, although one of Nike’s design patents has actually expired and is unenforceable, Nike can still prevent the copying of the Air Jordan® VII design by asserting its trade dress rights therein.