Flip-Flop: Nike Now On The Receiving End Of Trademark Threat Over USPS Inspired Sneakers

from the die-by-the-sword dept

Nike finds itself on our pages again. We’re fresh off of the settlement Nike reached with MSCHF over the Lil Nas X “Satan shoes”. That settlement sees MSCHF agreeing to buy back at retail prices 666 modified Nike Air Max 97s after Nike sued over trademark. It could have been an interesting case, bringing in all kinds of questions about resale rights, the First Amendment, ownership of property, and more. Instead, it all ends with a posturing settlement that achieves nearly nothing, since these fought-over shoes have suddenly been moonshot into an even more rare and valuable item than they already were. But, Nike gets its ounce of litigation blood and gets to pretend this is all somehow a victory.

And perhaps that settlement will be referenced in another trademark dispute that seems to be brewing between the United States Postal Service and Nike, with Nike this time on the receiving end of the threats.

In an ironic twist, the sneaker giant is being taken to task by the United States Postal Service over an upcoming postal service-inspired sneaker reportedly being planned by Nike. The USPS’s challenge, the latest in a string of public relations headaches for the top athletic brand, all but guarantees the company will end up in court once again — but with the shoe on the other foot.

According to a USPS statement provided to Yahoo Finance, Nike’s experimental Air Force 1 sneaker “is neither licensed nor otherwise authorized by the U.S. Postal Service This is an unfortunate situation where a large brand such as Nike, which aggressively protects its intellectual property, has chosen to leverage another brand for its gain.”

Now, perhaps you’re wondering just how much borrowing Nike is doing here. Well…

So, yes, the imagery of this entire sneaker is very clearly an homage to the USPS iconography and dress. Due to that, the USPS statement also noted ominously that it will do everything necessary to protect its “IP rights”.

It’s worth noting that I don’t think this sort of thing represents trademark infringement necessarily. The chief questions in these cases are, first, will the public be confused into thinking there is some kind of official association at play here and, second, does the use in question dilute the brand. I would argue that nobody is going to think that the USPS is somehow now in the sneaker business and, because of that, nobody is going to think less or differently of the federal mail system by this use.

But, on the other hand, those are the same arguments made by those of us who pushed back on Nike’s suit against MSCHF.

According to Christopher Buccafusco, a legal expert at the Cardozo Law School in New York City, Nike might find itself on far more shaky ground than when a judge ruled relatively swiftly in its favor.

“Nike’s claims to doing this without a license are much weaker than MSCHF,” he told Yahoo Finance. The latter “is engaged in a pretty obvious set of criticism and comments on Nike and Nike’s role in corporate culture. All of the sorts of things that we think fair use are there to protect,” he explained.

Yet Nike “is not doing any of that. [It’s just saying] that’s a cool logo that USPS uses, we want to use your cool logo. It’s not a commentary on USPS,” Buccafusco added. “Nike is not engaged in a first sale. It’s not like Nike bought USPS logos and stuck them on their shoes. They created a logo that was like the USPS logo because it kind of looks cool to them,” he said.

Note here as well that Buccafusco, despite the above, went on to state that he does not think Nike should lose this case if it does in fact go to court.

But, you know, live by the sword and die by the sword and all that. Given the recent lawsuit and settlement reached, it strains the mind to see how in the world Nike plans to articulate a coherent defense for itself in this case.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: nike

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Flip-Flop: Nike Now On The Receiving End Of Trademark Threat Over USPS Inspired Sneakers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
5 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Bad, bad, bad laws

The fact that rights are so clear as mud and overeise other long standing sensible principles like "right of first sale" for nebulous qualities like image and could clearly use anti-tampering intent clauses to prevent any aftermark modifications shows that generations of legislators should be ashamed of themselves and how terribly written their laws were.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
12:25 Australian Privacy Commissioner Says 7-Eleven Broke Privacy Laws By Scanning Customers' Faces At Survey Kiosks (6)
10:50 Missouri Governor Doubles Down On 'View Source' Hacking Claim; PAC Now Fundraising Over This Bizarrely Stupid Claim (45)
10:45 Daily Deal: The All-in-One Microsoft, Cybersecurity, And Python Exam Prep Training Bundle (0)
09:43 Want To Understand Why U.S. Broadband Sucks? Look At Frontier Communications In Wisconsin, West Virginia (8)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (71)
19:57 Le Tigre Sues Barry Mann To Stop Copyright Threats Over Song, Lights Barry Mann On Fire As Well (21)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (15)
13:37 Two Years Later, Judge Finally Realizes That A CDN Provider Is Not Liable For Copyright Infringement On Websites (21)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (158)
10:55 Verizon 'Visible' Wireless Accounts Hacked, Exploited To Buy New iPhones (8)
10:50 Daily Deal: The MacOS 11 Course (0)
07:55 Suing Social Media Sites Over Acts Of Terrorism Continues To Be A Losing Bet, As 11th Circuit Dumps Another Flawed Lawsuit (11)
02:51 Trump Announces His Own Social Network, 'Truth Social,' Which Says It Can Kick Off Users For Any Reason (And Already Is) (100)
19:51 Facebook AI Moderation Continues To Suck Because Moderation At Scale Is Impossible (26)
16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
13:54 Arlo Makes Live Customer Service A Luxury Option (8)
12:05 Delta Proudly Announces Its Participation In The DHS's Expanded Biometric Collection Program (5)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (14)
10:57 Daily Deal: The Python, Git, And YAML Bundle (0)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
06:41 Report: Client-Side Scanning Is An Insecure Nightmare Just Waiting To Be Exploited By Governments (35)
20:38 MLB In Talks To Offer Streaming For All Teams' Home Games In-Market Even Without A Cable Subscription (10)
15:55 Appeals Court Says Couple's Lawsuit Over Bogus Vehicle Forfeiture Can Continue (15)
13:30 Techdirt Podcast Episode 301: Scarcity, Abundance & NFTs (0)
12:03 Hollywood Is Betting On Filtering Mandates, But Working Copyright Algorithms Simply Don't Exist (66)
10:45 Introducing The Techdirt Insider Discord (4)
10:40 Daily Deal: The Dynamic 2021 DevOps Training Bundle (0)
09:29 Criminalizing Teens' Google Searches Is Just How The UK's Anti-Cybercrime Programs Roll (19)
06:29 Canon Sued For Disabling Printer Scanners When Devices Run Out Of Ink (41)
20:51 Copyright Law Discriminating Against The Blind Finally Struck Down By Court In South Africa (7)
More arrow