Hey, there! Log in / Register

Sneaker company wants to give vegan competitor in JP the boot

Can you tell which one of these is 100% earthy crunchy?Can you tell which one of these is 100% eco-friendly?

Converse is making a federal case out of a Jamaica Plain company's 100% organic sneakers that it says looks so much like its own sneakers they're 100% trademark violators.

In a lawsuit filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, the North Andover sneaker company says Autonomie Project's sneaker line mimics:

[T]he outsole, midsole, and upper designs commonly used in connection with Converse's Chuck Taylor All Star shoes, including but not limited to the design of two stripes on a midsole, the design of a toe cap, the design of a multi-layered toe bumper featuring diamonds and line patterns, and the relative position of these elements to each other.

Converse wants a judge to order Autonomie Project to stop selling the look-alike sneakers, destroy all the ones it still has in stock, turn over all the profits its made from sales and, of course, pay punitive damages and lawyers' fees.

On its Web site, the six-year-old Autonomie Project explains its mission:

We work exclusively with small, independent cooperatives and Fair Trade-certified facilities located in developing areas of the world where we can also allot a portion of our funds to be used for initiatives that will affect their entire community, such as building a health clinic or bringing a steady water supply to a small village. We provide our workers with a fair wage so they can beat out sweatshops and enjoy a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. We assist them with the development, design, and marketing of their products so that their businesses may prosper and become thriving participants in a reconfigured global marketplace.

Eco-friendly practices are employed whenever possible at our business's operational level as well as at the manufacturing level of all of our suppliers. We use organic cotton, all natural FSC rubber, and other eco-friendly & locally-sourced materials whenever possible to lessen our environmental impact. We never use animal products and encourage cruelty-free purchases and practices.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 
Free tagging: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Converse complaint0 bytes

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

A mission statement doesn't (and shouldn't) overcome trademark (counterfeit?) violation. It's hard not to root for a local startup with such high ideals, but they seem clearly in the wrong here copying Converse's style pretty blatantly.

Time to hire some actual shoe designers.

up
Voting closed 0

how idiotic trademark law has become if a company is being taken to court over the appearance of a pair of sneakers.

But let's go ahead and protect big company mega profits instead of encouraging competetion and innovation.

up
Voting closed 0

Designing a better sneaker is competition. Taking someone else's design and hawking it is not. I believe Samsung got sued recently for a billion because of this.

And while third world labor can be debated till the end of time, I'm also pretty sure that the people who have been making Converse shoes for years now are happier with the jobs than they would be without them, as well as the people who can now afford two pairs of shoes for their kids due to gradually lower prices of Converse sneakers.

up
Voting closed 0

By coping other peoples innovation and ideas. Trademarking encourages investment and job creation. Why would company "x" invest $100,000,000 to create "widget x" if company "z" is allowed to steal company "x" innovative creation.

up
Voting closed 0

Trademark definitely has it's issues, but it's meant to encourage innovation by protecting those who come up with a design. Why would a company invest in R&D, design, prototyping, marketing, etc. if everyone else could then rip off their work and sell for cheaper (because the copy cat doesn't have to spend money up front).

Autonomie Project can design their own shoe and still do all the same things in their mission statement without stealing from someone else.

up
Voting closed 0

Trademarks aren't meant to promote innovation. You're thinking of patents. Trademarks are meant to protect consumers from being confused as to whether goods share a common source, and thus common levels of quality. In fact trademarks aren't allowed to protect the functional aspects of marked goods, lest they go too far and behave like patents.

Trademarks are difficult in the fashion world, because clothes always have an aspect of functionality in their design. Converse is playing it safe by pointing to apparently non-functional elements like the stripe on the side of the sole. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

up
Voting closed 0

anon (not verified) - 9/10/13 - 12:15 pm--you're right, my bad confusing the two. But trademark still protects the companies that develop them, so take out R&D and my statement still stands.

up
Voting closed 0

Trademarks are fundamentally consumer protection laws. If you want a bottle of COKE brand soft drink, with the particular qualities that it has (flavor, color, number of calories, ingredients, etc.) then you shouldn't have to fear that someone will substitute some different product but keep the same name and label, tricking you into drinking something you didn't want.

But the Coca-Cola company, regardless of how much it has spent, is not protected from competitors appropriating non-trademarkable qualities of their product. The flavor is functional, regardless of how distinctive it is. If someone perfectly imitates it, trademarks allow it. The color isn't distinctive; lots of sodas are dark brown, and no consumer will be confused if a new brand of dark brown soda appears on shelves, so everyone is entitled to use that color. That Coca-Cola has spent a fortune ginning up a previously non-existent market for soft drinks doesn't give them a monopoly over it; hangers on can take advantage of it, such a supermarket generics that don't advertise at all. (I do miss the days of generics with simple black text on a white label)

Trademarks are not meant to protect businesses from competition. They aren't meant to prevent direct copying of creative works, of useful inventions, or of other non-trademarkable material. They aren't meant to protect against competitors taking advantage of other business entities in ways which are not treated as unfair competition, such as letting someone else create a market which can then be entered less expensively later on.

If Converse spent a lot of money on parts of their shoes which were never protected, or for which the protection ran out a long time ago, then they should consider themselves lucky that they got to coast for so long. But merely spending money on a product doesn't entitle you to protection for your investment; more is required.

up
Voting closed 0

... pushing the envelope -- as the ornamental design of a shoe is precisely the sort of thing that was _intended_ to be given only time-limited protection by design patents (which specifically cover non-functional "decorative" features). An opponent with unlimited funds to pay the huge legal fees necessary could probably demolish Converse's trademark protection claim. I can't imagine anyone would ever have the money needed to do so, however (why would any big-time corporation _want_ to imitate the design of a competitor's product). So what Converse has is de facto permanent design patent protection, courtesy of having so much money that no one can afford to challenge its claim.

up
Voting closed 0

I don't see why the design still should be protected, this many decades later.

up
Voting closed 0

Why can't I get the recipe for Coke - it's been the same for years?

Why should this JP company be able to knock off Converse? Because they want to?

up
Voting closed 0

Coke's formula is protected as a trade secret. If one coud determine Coke's precise formula (purely) through reverse engineering (no espionage allowed), one could use that formula to make one's own soft drink -- but could not call the product anything like Coke or Coca Cola -- as these are protected by Trademark law (for as long as Coca Cola Corp uses the names to advertise its products).

Design patents last for 14 years from grant of the patent. These can overlap with trademark protections -- but the latter need typically something more than a shape and decoration -- such as words, symbols, logos... The Converse design would seem to be protectable only by a design patent -- but Converse might be trrying to argue its design is actually a trademark (and, thus, arguably protectable in perpetuity).

up
Voting closed 0

There is nothing particularly unique about the converse design - other than it being old and looking like any and all "tennis shoes" did most of a century ago.

Levis would have a better case if it took other jean manufacturers to court, since they started with a unique product.

up
Voting closed 0

It's a classic but distinctive design and the slavish way that the other company copied every detail down to the grommets is evidence of that. I often find these kind of suits ridiculous--like Chick-Fil-A suing the "Eat More Kale" guy--but come on--these guys should've come up with SOMETHING visually distinctive instead of copying every detail. Simple did it. Vans did it. Keds did it. Tom's did it. It's a no-brainer.

up
Voting closed 0

A glass of Pepsi looks exactly like a glass of Coke.

up
Voting closed 0

Adam, can you add a feature to this site that requires people to verify their age before they post? This post is clearly starting to rake in truants from Kindergarden posing as adults.

up
Voting closed 0

I'm not sure if shoe design is legally protected, but most people here believe so. The company then has to protect its investment. It is sad that such a good shoe company has done something apparently wrong. That was a very bad business decision. They should change the shoe in at least 3 ways, and hopefully the parties will agree to settle out of court.

up
Voting closed 0

They aren't selling an inferior product, they are making an All-Star for people who want a greener, organic, sustainable, local, fair-trade shoe. If they made their own design, no one would care that it used better materials, it would just be another sneaker. By copying the look of a sneaker (but not any brand trademarks like a swoosh or three stripes) they emphasize the mission of the company.

up
Voting closed 0

Nobody would care if they mimicked Pro Keds!

up
Voting closed 0

When I was a kid *cough*ty years ago you could get Keds or PF Flyers that looked pretty much the same as those. (But those were for the rich kids. We had to settle for whatever was on sale at Raymonds or for the irregulars at Gold Seal.)

up
Voting closed 0

Because all this time they've been skirting our import tariffs by make "slippers" in order to avoid "sneaker" import costs.

http://www.gazetc.com/blog/2010/08/sneaking-throug...

I think Converse is in the right on this one. The JP company is clearly violating their trademarks on that shoe. I just hate the hypocrisy of blatantly dodging the law when it's convenient/cheap and then using it as a cudgel against the little guy next time it's necessary. It's not wrong...it just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

up
Voting closed 0

... is a proper subject matter for a trademark. However, unless someone with lots of money to pay to lawyers wants to challenge the trademark, it might as well be legitimate.

up
Voting closed 0

up
Voting closed 0