Footwear brand Skechers USA Inc. is the latest brand to file suit against notorious copycat Steve Madden Ltd. However, unlike most of the suits we have seen against Madden (think: ones filed by Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, etc.), which were based on trademark claims, this one centers on what Skechers alleges is infringement of seven design patents. According to Skechers’ lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, the brand is seeking injunctive relief (to get Madden to stop manufacturing and selling the shoes in question immediately and permanently). [An image from one of Skecher's patents is pictured below, along with one of the infringing Madden designs].
Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Skechers, which is taking issue with the woven elastic upper and molded rubber bottom of Madden's copy, is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages Madden in connection with the shoes, namely those from the Steven by Steve Madden Line under the style name Setta.
This lawsuit is particularly interesting as we so rarely see litigation in connection with patents in the fashion industry, (save for the big Lululemon vs. Calvin Klein suit of a few years ago), as patents are expensive to obtain and the process is a time consuming one, making it anything but ideal for the fashion industry, where trends often dominate a brand’s seasonal offerings. A design patent, one that protects the ornamental design of a functional item, can take years to obtain, meaning that by the time a brand acquires such protection, the garment or accessory it was looking to protect is old news. As such, we tend to see such protection applied only to staple items of brands with the resources to spend to obtain such protection. Commonly, this takes the form of shoes and headbags.
But back to Skechers, according to a statement from the company’s COO David Weinberg: “SKECHERS has invested tremendous resources into designing, developing, advertising and patenting our SKECHERS GO WALK® and our other popular product lines and has built them into a name and look globally recognized and synonymous with SKECHERS. While we prefer to compete in the market place, Steven Madden is selling its infringing footwear to SKECHERS’ wholesale customers and in other sales channels where the SKECHERS products are sold, and we believe this is causing us enormous damage. Considering our investment in the SKECHERS GO WALK® and our other product lines, we will not allow anyone to infringe on some of our most valuable intellectual properties. We plan on taking similar action against any company that develops any products that infringe on the patents of the SKECHERS GO WALK® or any of our other popular product lines, and any retailer that sells the Steven by Steve Madden Setta style.” More to come …
IMAGES COURTESY OF STEVE MADDEN & SKECHERS.