Charles Bullock, chief administrative judge at the International Trade Commission, has initially ruled that brands were violating Converse’s design trademarks, though the notice didn’t specify which trademarks have been violated or by which brands. (The full text of the ruling has not yet been made available.)
The entire International Trade Commission will have to rule on the preliminary decision in the coming weeks.
Converse released a statement saying the initial decision “validated Converse’s intellectual property rights in the iconic Chuck Taylor All Star and supported our right to enforcement.”
In October 2014, Converse, which is owned by Nike Inc., made a big move by filing a lawsuit against 30 companies for infringing on its classic sneaker style’s bumper toe, striped midsole and toe cap. The brand argued that companies were violating a common-law trademark protected in a trade-and-tariff code by importing “knockoff” sneakers with similar elements.
Skechers’ Bobs and Twinkle Toes brands were part of the suit, and on Thursday, the company announced that the judge had ruled favorably for Skechers. The Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company said the judge ruled that Twinkle Toes and Bobs do not infringe on Converse’s trademark for the Chuck Taylor midsole or any other design elements.
The company, apparently quoting Bullock’s Nov. 17 ruling, said in its release: “In making his ruling, the judge noted that both of the Skechers product lines feature prominent branding and that the Twinkle Toes line contains design features that ‘create enough differences that the shoes bearing them cannot be said to be similar to [the Chuck Taylor].'”
According to Skechers, the judge also stated that the evidence showed that there was no likelihood that consumers would confuse its designs with those of Converse’s Chuck Taylor.
“While we expected this result, we are still very pleased with the judge’s ruling on Twinkle Toes and Bobs,” said Michael Greenberg, president of Skechers. Greenberg noted that the brand spends upwards of $100 million a year on advertising to help distinguish its products and its identity in the market. “Our investment in our distinctive designs and brand identity has helped build Twinkle Toes into the No. 1 shoe line for young girls, and both Twinkle Toes and BOBS into household names synonymous with Skechers — not with Converse or any other brand.”
The vast majority of the brands sued by Converse have each chosen to settle out of court, including big names like Aldo, Iconix, Fila, Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and H&M.
New Balance (which owns the similar PF Flyers brand), Skechers, Walmart, Highline United, Gina Group and Edamame Kids have not settled with Converse.