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9th Circuit Splits Shoes in Trademark Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

The Stan Smith is a shoe, but not just any shoe.

It was "Shoe of the Year," with 40 million pairs of the adidas brand sold world-wide in 2014. But then Skechers, a relative newcomer in the shoe business, went and took all that glory.

A legal battle over the trademark shoe followed, and a trial judge ordered Skechers to stop selling infringing shoes. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, puts its foot down in Adidas America v. Skechers USA.

Three Stripes

It started with three stripes, a trademark of the Stan Smith design. In its opinion, the appeals court included a picture for reference.

The Ninth Circiut affirmed the trial judge's finding that Skechers' Onix shoe infringed. The stripes were distinctive like the Nike swoosh, and would likely cause substantial "confusion between the parties' products."

However, the appeals panel reversed an injunction against Skechers' Cross Court shoe. The appeals panel said the plaintiff did not show it would be irreparably harmed from the sale of that shoe.

It had to do, partly, with the relative quality of the shoes. While adidas claimed Skechers sold its shoe for less, the appeals court said that doesn't make it a lesser value. No harm, no foul, legally speaking.

Battle of the Brands

Neither company sells Nikes, including any that have become collectibles. For example, the Nike Air Mag -- the Back to the Future shoe -- could sell for $30,000.

Still, Skechers has carved out a huge market and is behind only Nike in sales. It's obviously a sort point for adidas, which started its business more than 30 years before Skechers.

Like they say, there's no business like shoe business.

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