Swiss Shoe Maker Loses to K-Swiss in Trademark Infringement Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on March 12, 2012

LawyerLos Angeles – Swiss orthopedics and fashion sports shoe maker Kuenzli SwissSchuh AG has lost an ongoing trademark infringement dispute against K-Swiss and will give up its iconic five stripes trademark.

In light of staggering legal costs, the Swiss company’s decision to drop the trademark came after it lost a trademark infringement case earlier this year to K-Swiss in a Duesseldorf superior court. Based on that court’s ruling, Kuenzli was not able to use the five stripes on its shoes sold in Germany because it had not registered the trademark. This decision came down despite the fact that Kuenzli, which helped found K-Swiss, has been using the five stripes trademark for over fifty years, long before the American company.

“The legal row has brought us close to ruin,” commented Kuenzli owner and Chief Executive Officer Barbara Artmann. “That’s why we decided to drop the five stripes and introduce a new trademark that uses five blocks. Since we are also a fashion sports shoe producer, the move may be beneficial as today many sports shoe makers use stripes,” she added.

Founded in 1966 by Swiss immigrant brothers Art and Ernie Brunner, the California-based K-Swiss first registered the five stripes trademark back in 1974 around the same time it launched its legendary white leather tennis shoe line. The Swiss brothers, who had become interested in tennis after immigrating to the United States, began importing Kuenzli tennis shoes. Much of K-Swiss’s success has been attributed to Kuenzli founder, Kurt Kuenzli, who’s name is the inspiration for the K in K-Swiss.

K-Swiss also reportedly used a near identical version of the Kuenzli tennis shoe as the inspiration of its famous line of tennis shoes.

Founded in 1927 in Switzerland, Kuenzli began using the five stripes logo in the 1950’s for its line of orthopedic boots that utilized a special lacing technology in which the five stripes offered a stabilizing function. The company patented the lacing technology, however on the advice of its lawyer at the time, did not register the stripes as a trademark.

A spokesperson for K-Swiss would not comment on the issue.

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