Crocs Is Doubling Down on Its Fight Against Copycats — Why This Time Is Different

Crocs Inc. is doubling down on its fight against copycats.

The clog maker announced today that it has filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission to request an investigation of unlawfully imported shoes that allegedly violate its registered trademarks.

Excerpts of the complaint obtained by FN showed that Crocs’ proposed investigation — under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 — sought to stop the imports and sales of footwear that it claimed included its design as well as word marks, which are federally registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to the brand, the 3D marks — or formally ‘328 Registration and ‘875 Registration, first used in June 2003 — consist of a three-dimensional configuration of the outside of an upper for a shoe, featuring round holes placed across the horizontal portion, as well as a textured strip along the vertical part of the upper with trapezoidal openings. In addition, the word mark, as reported in the complaint, was registered for use in shoes and first used in November 2002.

“We pride ourselves in creating iconic products that are distinctly Crocs,” CEO Andrew Rees said in a statement, “and this decisive action further demonstrates our commitment to protecting our brand, our trademarks and other intellectual property.”

He added, “By blocking the importation and sale of trademark-infringing footwear, we can ensure with confidence that our product DNA is fully protected while continuing to provide an authentically Crocs experience to our customers and consumers.

Since its founding nearly two decades ago, Crocs said it has sold nearly 800 million pairs of shoes across 90 countries. In 2006, it filed a request with the ITC related to the design and utility patent rights for its Classic Clog. The agency then issued a general exclusion order barring the importation of products that allegedly infringed on those patent rights — the same relief that the brand is seeking in its current action with respect to trademarks.

According to the USPTO, while granting patents safeguards others from creating or selling a specific invention, registering trademarks protects the logos, words and designs used to identify the product and distinguish it from others.

Crocs notably made headlines a year and a half ago when it scored a legal victory against competitor USA Dawgs. In September 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which is an arm of the USPTO, handed down a reversal of an earlier decision — in which the USPTO rejected the cornerstone design patent that made Crocs a household name — and held that the patent was valid, reinforcing the brand’s right to combat purported knockoffs.

Recognized for its lightweight clogs, Crocs — named FN’s 2020 Brand of the Year — has been active in its fight against alleged copycats.

The brand’s shoes have gained even more popularity this past year, thanks to the pandemic-induced shift toward casualization and adoption by health-care workers. For the first quarter ended March 31, the Broomfield, Colo.-based company logged blowout earnings and sales, leading it to raise its guidance for the fiscal year.

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