New Balance Files Complaint Against Converse

The Converse Inc. copyright-infringement suit continues. This time, New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. is the one taking action.

On Dec. 23, 2014, Boston-based New Balance filed a complaint in federal court against Converse asking the court to declare that New Balance hasn’t infringed on the Chuck Taylor All Star design. The company also asked the court to cancel Converse’s trademark registration for shoe styles that include a toe bumper, toe cap and striped midsole, according to the complaint.

In October, Converse, which is owned by Nike Inc., filed suit against 31 brands ranging from Skechers, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Zulily, Aldo Group, Fila, H&M, Highline United’s Ash brand Kitson, and Iconix’s Ed Hardy brand, arguing copyright infringement on its iconic Chuck Taylor design.

The complaint relates to New Balance’s PF Flyers brand, which it acquired in 2001. The shoe’s style is similar to the Converse Chuck Taylor. PF Flyers was owned and sold by Converse in the 1970s until Converse agreed to sell the brand as a part of a federal antitrust settlement.

Converse Lawsuit 2014
From the copyright lawsuit filed by Converse in October 2014.
CREDIT: Converse

“New Balance seeks a declaratory judgment of non-infringement because Converse does not have the exclusive right to use a toe bumper, toe cap and striped midsole in connection with athletic footwear,” wrote New Balance in its complaint.

Another notable takeaway from the filing: New Balance was not named in Converse’s initial suit. But when the company approached Converse in November to get clarification on the scope of the suit and get a written exemption for the PF Flyers brand, Converse declined and, according to the complaint filing, “threatened to amend the [U.S. International Trade Commission Action] to add New Balance” to the suit.

And the claws inside the sneakers come out.

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