Judge Rules No Infringement by Skechers in Converse Trademark Suit

The legal battle between Converse Inc. and Skechers USA Inc. is back in the spotlight.

On Oct. 9, a judge for the U.S. International Trade Commission found that Skechers’ Twinkle Toes and Bobs product lines did not infringe on Converse’s Chuck Taylor midsole trademark.

In his ruling, chief administrative law judge Charles E. Bullock wrote that “there is no violation” of the trademark by any of Skechers’ styles because it “was not a valid mark at the time that [Skechers] first began using the [trademark].” The initial decision will be followed up with a final determination scheduled on Jan. 9.

Skechers claimed victory in a statement released last week: “These rulings validate Skechers’ investment in its distinctive designs and brand identity — an investment that has helped build Twinkle Toes into a No. 1 shoe line for young girls and build both Twinkle Toes and Bobs into household names synonymous with Skechers — not with Converse or any other brand,” President Michael Greenberg said.

This marks the latest development in a five-year saga involving the two brands, who began sparring in court in 2014. That year, as part of a sweeping lawsuit, Nike-owned Converse sued Skechers and 25-plus other fashion firms, including Aldo Group, Fila USA Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for allegedly copying certain design elements of its Chuck Taylor All Star shoes.

In November 2015, the judge ruled that Skechers’ Twinkle Toes and Bobs do not infringe on Converse’s midsole trademark, writing that the products’ design features “create enough differences that the shoes bearing them cannot be said to be similar” to the Chuck Taylor.

The following year, the ITC found that Converse’s trademark rights for the Chuck Taylor midsole design were invalid, which the company appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In October 2018, the court remanded the case back to the ITC for further proceedings.

Today, only Skechers, Ash Footwear USA parent Highline United LLC and New Balance Athletics Inc. remain in the investigation. Converse had settled out of court with a number of the brands named in the 2014 complaint.

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