Adidas Has Been Suing Skechers for Knockoffs for 20 Years

Adidas Stan Smith Shock Primeknit White
Adidas Stan Smith Shock Primeknit "Footwear White/Green" heel pair.
Foot District

A California judge is predominantly siding with Adidas in a trademark suit the German athletic brand filed against competitor Skechers USA Inc. in 2015.

But, this is just the latest development in a 20-plus-year legal battle that has pitted the companies against each other over claims of trademark infringement.

“Since 1995, the parties have entered into several settlement agreements as a result of litigation based on Skechers’s alleged infringement of Adidas’s trademarks,” federal court judge Marco Hernández pointed out in his latest ruling.

In the new order, issued on Aug. 3, Hernández denied several of Skechers’ motions and granted a number of Adidas’ in a 2015 case in which Adidas accuses Skechers of knocking off three of its designs, including its popular Stan Smith trade dress.

“The Court denies Skechers’s motions for summary judgment regarding Adidas’s trademark infringement claims as to all of the disputed footwear,” the order reads. “The Court grants Adidas’s motions for summary judgment on Skechers’s functionality affirmative defense as to the Stan Smith Trade Dress and on Skechers’s descriptive fair use defense as to the Supernova Mark.”

In September 2015, Adidas sued Skechers alleging that the brand infringed on its iconic Stan Smith sneaker, its three-stripe mark and its “Supernova” trademark. In February 2016, the courts made its first strike in Adidas’ favor, issuing a preliminary injunction prohibiting Skechers from selling two already-discontinued styles of shoes and from using the word “Supernova” in connection with a third discontinued style.

Now, in his Aug. 3 order, Hernández called out several factors that suggest Adidas could ultimately prevail in its trademark suit.

Regarding Adidas’ claims that Skechers’ “Onix” shoe infringed on its Stan Smith sneaker, Skechers had argued — among other things — that Adidas’ trade dress is too “generic” to be protectable and “not distinctive because Adidas cannot establish a secondary meaning for it.”

The judge found that “Adidas has produced strong circumstantial evidence that purchasers associate the Stan Smith Trade Dress with a single source.”

“Adidas produced evidence that the Stan Smith has been widely recognized as an iconic shoe over the course of decades. It has garnered accolades such as a ‘classic of design,’ the ‘ultimate fashion shoe,’ and ‘The Most Important Sneaker of All-Time,’” the order notes.

The court further said that Adidas’ evidence showed that Skechers “set out to clone the Stan Smith shoe.”

In response, according to court documents, Skechers had argued that its copying was legal.

“Skechers implies, without asserting outright, that it may have had other reasons for copying Stan Smith’s traits, for example, in response to changing consumer preferences,” the latest court order reads. “This factor alone is sufficient to deny Skechers’ motion for summary judgment that the Stan Smith Trade Dress is indistinct. Furthermore, this factor weighs heavily in Adidas’ favor as Skechers has produced no evidence rebutting the clear evidence of its meticulous efforts to copy the Stan Smith shoe.”

Hernández further stated that Adidas has “a very strong case” when it comes to whether the Stan Smith has acquired secondary meaning,

When it comes to its ongoing litigation with Adidas, things haven’t been all bad for Skechers. In June, an Oregon district court handed down two rulings in Skechers’ favor in a patent infringement suit filed against the company by Adidas America Inc. in July 2016.

In that suit, Adidas alleged that the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based brand copied its Springblade technology — introduced in June 2013 — to create a similar technology, the Mega Flex.

District judge Michael Simon dismissed Adidas’ willful infringement allegations and also denied the brand’s request for a preliminary injunction, which sought to prevent Skechers from continuing to distribute the shoes in question.