Nike Sues Lil Nas X Partner For Trademark Infringement Over “Satan Shoes”
Nike has sued MSCHF for trademark infringement over the internet collective’s new line of Satan Shoes.
Satan Shoes are limited-edition, custom Nikes that are allegedly modified with a drop of human blood and embellished with a pentagram. Nike claims that since Satan Shoes were announced last week, the footwear manufacturing company has suffered a blow to its reputation.
Nike wants the shoes destroyed and compensation for the harm to the company’s name.
MSCHF, a company in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, is known for its controversial footwear. The Brooklyn based arts company previously marketed the “Jesus Shoe,” a Nike sneaker with holy water from the River Jordan inserted into the soles. Nike did not pursue legal action against Jesus Shoes, but it seems they are less forgiving when it comes to satanic footwear.
Lil Nas X has posted a prank apology video for the Satan Shoes, but the rapper was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Grounds for Trademark Infringement
In the lawsuit, Nike cites social media examples of consumers erroneously believing that their brand is connected with Satanism.
“Consumers’ belief that the Satan Shoes are genuine Nike products is causing consumers to never want to purchase any Nike products in the future,” Nike’s complaint contends.
The company also alleges that the modification of their products could cause physical harm to consumers.
MSCHF could defend themselves against the claims on multiple grounds. They could invoke the First Sales Doctrine, which protects the right to resell goods.
They could also argue that consumers are unlikely to confuse Satan Shoes with Nike’s off-the-shelf footwear. Additionally, they could argue that the shoes are protected by obvious parody. These defenses may be a tough sell.
Why It Matters
But more is at stake than the existence of 666 pairs of $1,018 shoes.
The case could set an important precedent for other lawsuits involving high end fashion brands. While it may be permissible to resell products or even use other people’s trademarks in artwork, the degree to which you can modify a product before it is considered a new product is debatable.
In this case, Nike will argue that MSCHF is altering its goods in a way that damages the quality of the product and Nike’s reputation. Another factor the court might consider is that MSCHF is marketing the products as commercial goods, rather than as art pieces.
The Last Laugh
By suing MSCHF, it appears that Nike has fallen for the group’s trap. As the co-founder of the company noted, even receiving a cease and desist letter from a famous trademark owner can be a huge boost to brand awareness. The joke will be on MSCHF, however, if Nike receives a large damage award.