Converse Sues Retailers and Manufacturers to Protect its All Star Trademark Designs

By Joseph Mandour on October 24, 2014

converseLos Angeles – Converse is suing 31 retailers and manufacturers who it says have infringed on its shoes’ trademark designs. The shoe manufacturer, which has sold its brand of footwear for more than a century, says some of the basic elements of its ubiquitous Chuck Taylor sneakers – the black stripes and a rubber toe topper – are being imitated by major retailers and shoe manufacturers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Skechers and others. Converse, which is owned by Nike, is taking 31 companies to court accusing them of trademark infringement in 22 separate lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

Converse is seeking monetary damages, but has stated that its primary goal is to get the imitators off store shelves. To accomplish that, the company is also pursuing a separate complaint with the International Trade Commission, which has the authority to block any shoes considered to be counterfeit or imitations from entering the United States.

Converse officials say the trademark design – rubber-toe front and a single star — is famous because it has evolved into an American icon over many decades of use among several generations of shoe buyers.

Converse was the pioneer when it came to brand-name athletic shoes long before other brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas crowded the field. Converse introduced its very first sneakers for baseball players, the All Star, in 1917. The company’s most popular spokesman was famous baseball player Chuck Taylor. The company’s trademark design was named after him and generations of American teens have given the shoes the moniker, Chucks. They have been sported by John Travolta’s leather-wearing T-Birds in “Grease.” Sylvester Stallone, who played legendary boxer Rocky Balboa in “Rocky,” also wore them.

It remains to be seen if Converse is successful in its efforts to stop the alleged infringements, since proving trade dress infringement in the fashion world can be challenging. Generally you cannot protect aspects of designs that are functional. In addition, Converse must show evidence that consumers associate the specific design with the manufacturer.

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