New Balance Is Suing Nautica — Here’s How Rapper Lil Yachty Is Involved

It only takes one letter.

New Balance last week filed suit against Authentic Brands Group and its owned label Nautica over its use of the letter “N” on footwear and apparel — claiming such use counts as trademark infringement of New Balance’s design patent.

“Nautica’s use of a block letter ‘N’  on footwear and apparel is likely to cause confusion among consumers and/or suggest an affiliation, connection, or association between New Balance and Nautica; dilutes the distinctive quality of New Balance’s famous ‘Block N Marks;’ and constitutes unfair competition,” the lawsuit, filed in a Massachusetts district court on Aug. 21 — and first reported by The Fashion Law — alleged.

New Balance further claimed in court documents that it “exclusively” used the “Block N Footwear Marks” in commerce since the 1970s and the “Block N Apparel Mark “since at least as early as 1996.”

“[New Balance] has sold hundreds of millions of pairs of shoes and pieces of apparel bearing the marks worldwide, which represent many billions of dollars in sales,” New Balance claimed. “’The Block N Marks’ are famous and embody an enormous amount of goodwill. They are among the company’s most valuable assets.”

The lawsuit alleges that only recently did Nautica — which ABG acquired from VF Corp. in 2018 — start using the letter “N” on its footwear and apparel. It goes on to note that both brands have similar distribution partners — namely Kohl’s and Macy’s — and have even enlisted similar entertainers and celebrities to promote their products.

Among its most interesting claims, New Balance points out in the suit a supposed affinity for its wares on the part of Nautica brand endorser and rapper Lil Yachty.

“In 2017 and 2018, Nautica partnered with rapper and designer Lil Yachty … Yachty is a well-known New Balance supporter, even ‘name-dropping’ the brand in his hit song ‘Minnesota,’” the suit reads. “Lil Yachty professed on an episode of Complex’s Sneaker Shopping, ‘Oh my god, I love New Balance.’”

Alleging both patent and trademark infringement as well as unfair competition on the part of Nautica, New Balance is seeking unspecified damages — including Nautica’s profits on products bearing the block letter “N;” an injunction compelling Nautica to discontinue its use of the block letter “N;” and a recall of all of Nautica’s footwear and apparel products bearing the letter symbol — among other remedies.

Nautica parent firm ABG did not immediately respond to FN’s request for comment.

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