SKX, Crocs in Legal Battle

NEW YORK  — The battle for the molded footwear market leapt recently from store shelves to the courthouse, when Crocs Inc. brought a patent and trade dress lawsuit against Skechers USA Inc.

The complaint, filed July 10 in the U.S. District court for Colorado, in Denver, alleges that Skechers footwear using Nano Lite foam construction mimics Crocs designs and logos.

“Skechers’ products,” the lawsuit said, “are substantially similar to several Crocs-issued design patents [and] bear a confusingly similar imitation of the Crocs’ trade dress. In short, they are knock-offs of well-known Crocs styles.”

Crocs is seeking an injunction against Skechers’ further use and sale of any infringing product and use of the animated bear logo and seeks to claim all revenue derived from any infringing product, legal fees and other unspecified damages.

Skechers responded to the allegations in a statement last week. Philip Paccione, EVP and general counsel for the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company, dismissed Crocs’ allegations.

“We believe this lawsuit is completely without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against such baseless accusations,” Paccione said in the July 16 statement.

In the original complaint, Crocs included a side-by-side photo breakdown of the alleged infringing products, including Skechers’ Low Tide, Gypsies and Wooly Bully models, among others. Another graphic shows the Crocs animated crocodile trademark on its shoes’ rivets next to the Skechers’ Cali Bear animated logo on its shoes’ rivets. In each mark the animal caricature is placed against a black background in a circle with a white border.

In its statement, Skechers provided its own side-by-side contrast of the crocodile and bear logos at a close view. According to the statement, a cursory review of the two demonstrates that Crocs’ allegations are “ridiculous.”

Boulder, Colo.-based Crocs also took issue with a Skechers marketing campaign launched this month in its home city. Crocs’ complaint alleges that Skechers’ advertising is aimed directly at the Boulder market in an attempt to appropriate its local goodwill. According to court documents, Skechers employed a mobile advertising vehicle to drive through the streets of the Boulder area for 40 hours each week, from July 1 through July 31, promoting the Skechers’ Cali Clogs shoe.

Skechers’ Paccione said his company had a following in Colorado years before Crocs existed.

Crocs did not return a call asking for comment on the Skechers statement. At press time, the case had not yet been assigned to a judge.

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