Adidas has been slapped with a trademark lawsuit courtesy of Art Basel. According to a lawsuit filed by the art fest organizer on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, adidas is on the hook for the “willful distribution of at least 1,000 pairs of sneakers bearing an unauthorized reproduction of Plaintiffs’ registered and incontestable ART BASEL® trademark.”
Art Basel alleges in its suit - which sets forth claims of Federal trademark ifnringement, federal false association and false designation of oriign, federal trademark dilution, and common law trademark infringement, etc. - that its “name and mark has been used internationally since at least as early as 1999 in connection with art fair expositions around the world and related goods."
The famous art fest claims that it "routinely permit its show partners to use the ART BASEL mark on an exclusive basis for valuable consideration. [It] have recently licensed the use of the ART BASEL mark to internationally well-known entities, such as UBS financial services, NetJets fractional airplane ownership company, BMW, Audemar Piguet watches, and Davidoff cigars.” Not on that list? Adidas.
Nonetheless, in 2016, the German sportswear giant allegedly “without receiving consent from [Art Basel], or even requesting such consent, designed Sneakers improperly bearing the ART BASEL mark to promote its new version of the EQT sneaker.”
Art Basel claims that adidas’ “placement of the ART BASEL mark on the Sneakers, hang tags and boxes, which each also bear [adidas’] marks, deliberately misrepresents an association, show partnership, sponsorship or other affiliation between [Art Basel] and Adidas and misrepresents the origin of the Sneakers.”
The complaint goes on to state that in addition to willfully infringing the Art Basel trademark, adidas' infringing activity is especially damning, as adidas simply should have known better: “Adidas knew or should have known that the market would consider that an affiliation exists between Adidas and [Art Basel], as they currently use a similar trademark scheme using the trademarks of others in conjunction with their marks to indicate the existence of such a relationship, such as the marks it placed on the official match balls of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 UEFA European Championship to indicate Adidas’ sponsorship.”
In what Art Basel is calling “blatant disregard of its rights,” it alleges that adidas also “promoted, advertised, distributed, sold, and/or offered for sale the Sneakers” and continue to do so, thereby enjoying the benefits of an exclusive license of the ART BASEL mark without paying for or obtaining a license and, therefore, has been unjustly enriched through its unauthorized infringement of the ART BASEL mark.”
The art fest claims that it is "suffering irreparable and indivisible injury and harm as a result of [adidas’] unauthorized and wrongful use of the ART BASEL mark," and that "if [adidas’] infringing and unfairly competitive activities are not permanently enjoined, [Art Basel] and the consuming public will continue to be harmed."
The lawsuit also blasts adidas for contacting journalists to write about the shoe. The court filing includes links to four online websites - including Complex - which are devoted to sneaker enthusiasts.
This is striking considering that adidas has been on a trademark infringement litigation tear over the past couple of years, initiating trademark infringement-related lawsuits (and opposition proceedings) against Forever 21, football club FC Barcelona, Italian fashion brand Bally, fellow footwear brand ECCO, Skechers, Marc Jacobs, and Elon Musk's Tesla, among others.
A spokesperson for Art Basel said: “The complaint speaks for itself.”
* The case is MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd., V. Adidas America, Inc. and Adidas AG, 1:17-cv-22002-DPG (FLSD).