Nike, Jacquemus and the Trademark, “it” Bag Equation

Image: Nike

Nike, Jacquemus and the Trademark, “it” Bag Equation

An interesting little trademark scenario popped up recently: In late February, Jacquemus teased part of its since-released collaborative collection with Nike on Instagram. In particular, the French fashion brand designed by Simon Porte Jacquemus showcased a handbag design, that ...

March 11, 2024 - By Julie Zerbo

Nike, Jacquemus and the Trademark, “it” Bag Equation

Image : Nike

Case Documentation

Nike, Jacquemus and the Trademark, “it” Bag Equation

An interesting little trademark scenario popped up recently: In late February, Jacquemus teased part of its since-released collaborative collection with Nike on Instagram. In particular, the French fashion brand designed by Simon Porte Jacquemus showcased a handbag design, that of the Le sac Swoosh, which takes the form of Nike’s famed Swoosh – albeit in black, pink, or cream leather, with a zipper and adjustable shoulder strap, a little metallic name plate that says Jacquemus, and a $525 price tag. 

Social media users were quick to note that the long fingernails and tattoos depicted in one of the images belong to Nike-sponsored American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was subsequently revealed to be the face of the campaign for the latest collection to come from the ongoing Nike and Jacquemus collaboration. However, what caught my eye was the shape of the bag, which is, of course, meant to evoke one of Nike’s most famous trademarks: the instantly-identifiable Swoosh that the Beaverton, Oregon-based sportswear titan has been using across footwear, garments, and other accessories since the early 1970s.

What makes the Le sac Swoosh particularly notable is that the Swoosh-shaped bag is something of a reversal of what we are accustomed to seeing when it comes to trademark rights and handbags. Traditionally, handbags garner trademark (or more specifically, trade dress) rights not by taking on the form of the underlying company’s most famous logo – and that is probably the case for some obvious (and largely practical) reasons. Instead, rights are more commonly amassed the other way around: Companies consistently sell “it” or other staple bags for long enough, market them with enough robustness, generate a sizable volume of revenue from sales of the bags, engage in consistent product placements, and enjoy unsolicited third-party media attention, among other factors all aimed at generating acquired distinctiveness – and voila, they very well may have a trademark-protected handbag configuration on their hands.

The Birkin bag – which we previously broke down from a secondary meaning perspective here – is one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon. The crux: As a result of Hermès’s “widespread and constant use” of the “distinctive shape” of the Birkin bag (think: the rectangular sides and bottom, dimpled triangular profile, rectangular flap with three protruding lobes, keyhole-shaped openings, horizontal rectangular strap having an opening to receive a padlock eye, etc.) since 1984 and the “notoriety” that the BIRKIN handbag enjoys, the configuration of the bag has come to be act as an indicator of source identfier of the French luxury goods brand.

That is part of what Hermès successfully argued in furtherance of the Birkin-centric trademark lawsuit that it waged against MetaBirkins creator Mason Rothschild back in 2022. (More about that still-ongoing case can be found right here.)

Interestingly, Nike and Jacquemus are not the only ones engaging in this flip-flopped branding-heavy exercise. Prada is one of the other names that comes to mind here thanks to its relatively recent lineup of triangle-shaped shoulder bags, which appear to be one of its latest efforts to extend the reach of its triangular trademark beyond the usual metal adornments on its handbags.

More broadly, these are examples of companies looking for ways to incorporate branding beyond the most obvious and traditional (and connect with consumers in a particularly maxed-out market filled with branding). And thus, these instances fall in line with other efforts by brands, such as Valentino and its enduring use of color (a specific shade of fuchsia to be exact) to consider how they are using indicators of their brand and potentially think outside of the box a bit. 


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