New Balance and Converse Go Toe to Toe on Trademarks


Running shoe makers New Balance and Converse are going toe to toe over athletic shoes in a trademark dispute.  Converse is fighting to stop knock-offs of its iconic ‘Chuck Taylor’ athletic shoe, while New Balance says it is protecting its rights in its ‘PF Flyer’ brand shoes.  Both shoes are considered American classics, and both have been popular designs dating back decades.


Converse has been very active in its efforts, some might say aggressive, to stop knock-off ‘Chucks’ from hitting the store shelves from North America to Europe and Asia, and has been diligent in working with the International Trade Commission to go after alleged infringers.  In 2013, Converse, now part of Nike, registered a trademark for ‘Chuck Taylor,’ and then filed lawsuits against Wal-Mart, Sketchers and other mass market retailers and athletic shoe brands alleging trade dress infringement.


New Balance was not one of the brands that Converse sued, but was allegedly feeling pressure from Converse despite this.  Out of alleged concerns about the broad and overarching nature of the ‘Chuck Taylor’ registration, New Balance filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. According to the Boston Globe, New Balance wants the federal district court to cancel Converse’s Chuck Taylor trademark.  New Balance says that Converse’s description of its trademark includes, “common ornamental or functional features that are not unique to Chuck Taylor sneakers and could be applied to any number of shoes.”   Most significantly, New Balance allegedly fears that its own ‘PF Flyer’ design would broadly fall under the description of the Converse mark.


As in this athletic shoe design dispute, intellectual property lawsuits are generally very dependent on the facts, and an experienced litigator can help your business see the forest for the trees.  If you have questions about trademark infringement, or have an issue with someone else using your intellectual property, you need an experienced business litigator who understands trademark protection.  James J. “Jim” Thomas II has more than 35 years of experience advising Georgia businesses and handling complex business litigation including intellectual property matters like trademark infringement.  Jim can help you with the analysis, evaluation, and resolution of existing and potential litigation including in intellectual property disputes. Visit online, or give Jim a call at 404-869-5248 to set up a free consultation.

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