In a suit filed in the California Northern District Court on Tuesday, Allbirds accuses Steve Madden of copying the design of its signature wool lace-up sneaker — a product it introduced in 2015 — to create the Steven “women’s traveller sneakers,” which landed this year.
In its complaint — for trade dress infringement and unfair competition — Allbirds further alleges that in the summer of 2017, “a high-level executive for Steve Madden” contacted Allbirds and “made inquiries about the brand.” Allbirds claims Madden knocked off its design shortly thereafter.
Direct-to-consumer brand Allbirds officially launched in 2016 and, after gaining a cultlike following, the company opened physical outposts in California and New York. (Before the official launch, Allbirds had previously operated a kickstarted campaign in 2014.) Despite offering just two styles for men and women, Allbirds is estimated to have raked in millions of dollars in sales in a short time.
“A multibillion-dollar business has taken a stab at our mission, and it felt wrong. It has the potential to hurt us, but more importantly, it has the potential to hurt the positive environmental impact we set out to achieve,” Allbirds co-founder Joey Zwillinger said in an emailed statement to Footwear News today. “As a Public Benefit Corporation and certified B-Corp, environmental conservation is written into our company charter; to this end, we are donating any proceeds from the lawsuit to the Audubon Society.”
The nearly 30-year-old Steve Madden brand has been a Wall Street and consumer favorite for years, raking in revenues that have consistently blown past market forecasts. Still, the company continues to shoulder a bevy of lawsuits for trademark infringement, recently from Dr. Martens and luxury label Aquazzura.
Regarding the latest suit, a spokesperson for the Steve Madden brand said the company has no comment at this time.