Wal-Mart Fights Back Against Converse Over Copyright Infringement

In the Converse trademark-infringement saga’s most recent development, retail behemoth Wal-Mart is taking on the maker of the Chuck Taylor All-Star sneaker. While a number of brands have chosen to settle, including Ralph Lauren and Aldo, Wal-Mart filed a complaint on Monday against the Nike Inc.-owned Converse with the International Trade Commission.

In the filing, Wal-Mart argues that the toe caps, toe bumpers and stripes that Converse claims to own are “actually or aesthetically functional” and therefore “they are not subject to trademark protection.” The company cites advertising in which Converse seems to acknowledge that it doesn’t own the rights to the features.

The Wal-Mart complaint stems from when Converse — in a surprise move last October — filed suit with the International Trade Commission against more than 30 companies for infringing on the trademarks of the classic Chuck Taylor All-Star. Virtually no one in the industry was spared — Walmart, Kmart, Skechers, Fila, Aldo, Ralph Lauren and more were named in Converse’s suit.

Since then, many of those companies have settled out of court, including Zulily and Tory Burch. And in a high-profile settlement in late January, Ralph Lauren agreed to destroy all of its remaining footwear that resembled the Converse shoes and not produce the styles again. The settlement amount has not been disclosed.

As brands continue to weigh their options in terms of settlement versus letting the case drag out, it looks as though Wal-Mart is in the fight for the long haul.

Wal-Mart’s complaint accuses Converse of using the suit to “extort monetary settlements” and says it “will fight Converse’s anti-competitive actions to preserve Every Day Low Prices for Wal-Mart customers.”

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