Dank Customs, a custom footwear brand, has released its Air Jordan IV "Patchwork Louis Vuitton Don" style much to the delight of sneakerheads everywhere. Many of us legally-minded individuals initially identify this as a sure-fire lawsuit in the making as those are LV logos on the shoes, but that's probably not the case here. Our friends over at Complex made a good point in their piece on the sneakers, alluding to a potential trademark issue, saying: "An official collaboration between LV and Jordan Brand is highly unlikely." So, while we aren't confused as to the source of the sneakers, we do think a brief discussion is warranted.
As you may know, Louis Vuitton is especially protective of its intellectual property (and rightfully so; it is one of the Paris-based design house's most valuable assets), and so, there is a chance that Jake Danklefs, the creative force behind Dank Customs, will be receiving a letter in the mail soon, as the Jordan IV "Patchwork Louis Vuitton Dons" clearly include some LV trademarks. Namely, the LV logo and a bit of the Toile Monogram on the side. However, I don't think that is likely to happen in this case. Here's why ...
Danklefs' sneaker is clearly inspired by an existing Louis Vuitton style, the "Patchwork Louis Vuitton Don" (pictured below), which was released in July 2009 Louis Vuitton in connection with the house's collaboration with rapper-turned-fashion designer Kanye West. And while the two shoes bear some similarities, any claims from the Louis Vuitton legal team would stem from Danklefs' use of its trademarks and whether consumers would be confused as to the source of the Jordan IV "Patchwork Louis Vuitton Don" (aka would someone think Louis Vuitton created, endorsed or was somehow involved in the creation of the Dank Customs' shoe), as that is the key inquiry in a trademark suit. I think there is a relatively strong argument for confusion here and as a result, this would be an easy one for Louis Vuitton to win in court. However, because all of Danklefs' shoes are one of a kind, that hypothetical lawsuit will likely never happen, as Louis Vuitton probably does not see much a threat.
While Louis Vuitton would almost certainly be within its right to demand that Danklefs stop producing shoes with its trademarked logos on them (as the design house has federally registered trademarks that extend to footwear), we've told you in the past, the policing of trademarks is a calculated fight. The cost of policing a trademark in individual instances is weighed as a practical matter. Sometimes its worth it and sometimes its just not. If Dank Customs were to begin releasing larger quantities of the sneakers for sale, I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Louis Vuitton would be sending out some strongly worded cease and desist letters, but due to the very limited number of shoes made (one) and the full plate that Louis Vuitton's IP lawyers must have with counterfeits being sold on every corner of the internet, its probably safe to say that Danklefs is in the clear this time. Having said this, I would probably choose another brand to target, knowing just how well the Louis Vuitton team does it job, but that's just me. Thoughts?