Footwear designer John Geiger wants a judge to dismiss a trademark infringement lawsuit from Nike that names him as a defendant.
According to a motion to dismiss filed in a Central California District Court on Tuesday, Geiger’s lawyers argue that the designer’s GF-01 shoes do not constitute trademark infringement or unfair competition to Nike because it is unlikely that consumers would mistake these shoes for Nike products.
Nike named Geiger as a defendant in August 2021, expanding its initial complaint against footwear manufacturer La La Land Production & Design. According to the complaint, La La Land supplied Geiger with sneakers that were similar to Nike’s Air Force 1 shoes, which infringed on certain trade dress elements for that product. Nike said that Geiger’s marketing and selling of the shoes intentionally created “confusion in the marketplace” and capitalized “on Nike’s reputation and the reputation of its iconic shoes.”
“I’m preparing to fight this battle for all creator and underdogs fighting the same uphill battle as me,” Geiger wrote in a public statement on his Instagram account. “I’ve been very clear throughout the two years of developing and selling the GF-01 that this silhouette was inspired by Nike and also made sure that anyone purchasing the shoe is aware it is a designer shoe crafted with higher-end materials and quality, along with my trademark and changes to the silhouette.”
In the motion filed to dismiss the case, Geiger’s counsel argued that his shoes lack Nike’s iconic Swoosh and instead feature Geiger’s own signature “G” logo.
“Ask anyone in the world how to spot a Nike, and they will tell you: look for the Swoosh,” reads the filing, which argues that this distinction makes confusion between brands unlikely.
Geiger’s counsel also challenged the claim that Geiger infringed on functional elements of the product such as sneaker stitching, which is similar across multiple brands.
Nike has not responded to requests to comment on the legal action, though in recent months, the company has filed similar trademark infringement complaints.
In a lawsuit filed in a federal court in California on July 19, Nike alleged that Customs By Ilene Inc., or popular sneaker customizing business Drip Creationz, was responsible for trademark infringement and dilution of its products as well as selling counterfeit shoes that claim to be Nike products.
In March, Nike filed another trademark infringement lawsuit against MSCHF, the company that created and sold a number of “Satan Shoes” in collaboration with Lil Nas X in March. The sneakers were based off the Nike Air Max 97 and were ultimately recalled by MSCHF after a settlement agreement was reached in April.
“Nike is clearly going after smaller, independent brands it believes are unable to defend themselves or might be intimidated by Nike’s aggressive legal tactics,” said Kenneth Anand, a lawyer at Jayaram law firm representing Geiger and the co-author of Sneaker Law. “Geiger isn’t afraid to fight this, and my firm and I are well-versed in these kinds of cases.”