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Nike files trademark infringement lawsuit against fashion brand BAPE

Nike files trademark infringement lawsuit against fashion brand BAPE

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Nike has filed a lawsuit against Japanese fashion brand A Bathing Ape (BAPE) in a New York court for trademark infringement and copying some of Nike's famous footwear products.

According to the lawsuit, Nike said BAPE was a copyist whose infringements have recently grown to become a significant danger to Nike’s rights. “BAPE’s current footwear business revolves around copying Nike’s iconic designs”, the lawsuit said.

Nike’s complaint highlights the similarities between BAPE's designs including the BAPE STA, the SK8 STA Sta, and the COURT STA and their corresponding Nike inspirations—the Air Force 1, Dunk Low, and the Jordan 1, respectively. It said the five of BAPE’s footwear products are near “verbatim copies” of Nike Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1 and Dunk sneaker designs.

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BAPE introduced its first infringing footwear in the United States in 2005. But until recently, BAPE’s sale of infringing footwear in the United States was inconsistent. For fifteen years, the presence of BAPE’s infringing footwear in the United States resembled the famous Whac-A-Mole arcade game: infringing products appeared and then disappeared from the United States market for years; BAPE opened stores in the United States and then shuttered them a few years later; and BAPE was purchased by a Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T. Group that shifted BAPE’s focus to markets outside the United States. And at all times prior to 2021, the quantity of BAPE’s infringing footwear in the United State was never more than a small fraction of the millions of pairs Nike sells annually.

"BAPE’s copying is and always has been unacceptable to Nike, and because BAPE’s infringements have recently grown to become a significant danger to Nike’s rights, according to the lawsuit. "Nike must act now. Nike notified BAPE of its infringements and asked it to stop. BAPE refused to do so. Instead, BAPE continues to escalate its infringing activity. Nike, therefore, is forced to bring this lawsuit to stop BAPE’s unauthorised use of Nike’s trademarks," the statement read. 

Nike also said BAPE refused to stop the alleged violations when asked andBAPE's designs would cause confusion among potential customers. Nike's complaint cited secondary-market sellers who referred to the BAPE shoes as "Air Force 1s" or "Dunks." Itasked the court to order BAPE to stop selling the shoes and has requested an unspecified amount of money damages.

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MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to A Bathing Ape for a statement.

Recently, another sportwear giant Adidas has lost from a lawsuit for trying to stop luxury brand Thom Browne’s from using a four-stripe design. It argued that Thom Browne’s four stripes were too similar to its three stripes. Meanwhile, Thom Browne argued that that shoppers were unlikely to confuse the two brands as it had a different number of stripes. Adidas has lost the trademark case against Thom Browne.

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