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Sports giant Adidas can protect its famous Stan Smith tennis shoe against an alleged Skechers USA Inc knockoff, following a US appeals court decision. However, the decision also said Skechers could sell another shoe mimicking Adidas’ familiar “three-stripe” design.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction barring Skechers from selling its Onix shoe, which Adidas said looked like its white Stan Smith shoe, its all-time best-seller with more than 40 million pairs sold. They then also reversed a similar injunction barring Skechers from selling its Cross Court shoe, which has three stripes on its side, finding no proof Adidas would suffer irreparable harm. Adidas has sued Skechers several times in the last two decades for alleged infringement of its three-stripe trademark. A statement reported in Reuters from Adidas said “we will not stand by and allow others to blatantly copy our products,” and that it was “committed to bringing a complete end to Skechers’ pattern of unlawful conduct” at trial.
Game, set and match
Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen said the Stan Smith, named for the early 1970s American tennis star, has enjoyed “tremendous commercial success and market recognition,” and Adidas might face irreparable harm if similar shoes flooded the market. She also said evidence suggested that Skechers intended to confuse consumers by creating the “nearly identical” Onix, and then directing consumers who searched online for “adidas stan smith” to the Onix website. However, Nguyen also said Adidas failed to show that consumers would associate it with Skechers’ Cross Court, causing the dilution of Adidas’ reputation as a “premium” brand.