New Balance & Nautica Settle Dispute Over Use of the Letter ‘N’

The battle of the “Ns” has been settled.

A lawsuit — filed in Massachusetts District Court by New Balance in August 2019 against Authentic Brands Group and its owned label Nautica over Nautica’s use of the letter “N” on footwear and apparel — was settled on Friday.

The parties agreed to dismiss “without prejudice” all claims against Nautica, with both brands to cover their own costs and attorneys’ fees, according to a court filing. Friday’s filing did not outline the terms of the settlement agreement; the court will retain jurisdiction over the brands should any dispute arise from the settlement.

In the August filing, New Balance claimed that Nautica’s use of the letter “N” counts as trademark infringement of its design patent. The sportwear giant sought 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’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 alleged.

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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,” the athletic powerhouse 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 suggested that Nautica — which ABG acquired from VF Corp. in 2018 — had only recently began using the letter “N” on footwear and apparel. Additionally, the suit noted that both brands have similar distribution partners — including Kohl’s and Macy’s — and have even enlisted similar entertainers and celebrities to promote their products.

Neither New Balance nor Nautica immediately responded to FN’s request for comment.

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