Jun 30, 2017
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Converse continues trademark battle for Chuck Taylor All Star

Jun 30, 2017

Walmart, Skechers and New Balance have filed the opening brief in the federal appeal of a trademark infringement case where Converse is fighting hard to protect its Chuck Taylor All Star style against numerous knockoffs.

Converse, left; Skechers Bobs, right Converse, left; Skechers Bobs, right - Converse, left; Skechers Bobs, right

The original case was filed in October of 2014. At that time, Nike-owned Converse sued over thirty brands that were selling shoes it claimed were knockoffs of its classic Chuck Taylor All Star style. Converse began making the iconic shoe in 1917 and finally chose to take action in court after the style had been knocked off for decades.

In 2014, Converse sued to enforce three trademarks it owned. The specific trademarks Converse tried to protect were for the toe cap, the stripes around the outsole of the shoe, and the rubber toe bumper itself.

In 2014, a judge in the International Trade Commission (ITC) court upheld Converse's rights to those trademarks.

At that time, most of the defendants dropped out of the initial suit by making settlement offers that Converse accepted. Companies that settled included H&M, Ralph Lauren and Fila.

Three companies stayed in though, opting to fight it out in court. The three remaining companies were Skechers, Walmart and New Balance.

In June of 2015, the first ITC ruling was overturned. The three trademarks Converse was trying to enforce were invalidated. The appeals judge with the ITC said the only mark Converse had a right to enforce was the diamond pattern on the rubber outsole. In a gesture acknowledging Converse's style, the ITC banned any company from importing shoes into the US with a diamond pattern on the outsole other than Converse in the hopes of freeing up the market.

In August of 2016, Converse appealed the decision to the Federal Circuit court. It is preparing to fight again against Skechers who makes Twinkle Toes which uses the rubber toe cap, and also the brand's Bobs styles that plainly look like Chuck Taylor All Stars. Also in the appeal are New Balance, who manufacturers strikingly similar PF Flyers, and Walmart.

The first brief has been filed now by the defendants Walmart, New Balance and Skechers. In it, the companies allege the Chuck Taylor All Star has been "ubiquitously sold for decades by numerous companies."

The companies also argue that the All Star trade dress which Converse is trying to protect is actually comprised of design elements that have been used by "hundreds of manufacturers... from the 1940s (and before) to the present."

Converse has yet to respond. When it does, it is certain the brand will continue to aggressively fight to protect its Chuck Taylor All Star, the style which the brand itself has become synonymous with.

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