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13 November 2014Trademarks

Converse infringement claim sparks large-scale ITC probe

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has agreed to investigate more than 30 retailers and shoe designers, including Wal-Mart and Skechers, after  claims they are infringing trademarks owned by  Converse.

In a statement yesterday (November 12), the ITC said it would investigate the claims regarding “shoes that allegedly infringe or dilute registered and common law trademarks”.

If the ITC rules in favour of Converse, the accused companies could be hit with an exclusion order banning imports into the US.

Converse, which has been owned by sportswear multinational Nike since 2003,  sued 31 retailers and rival shoe designers last month in separate lawsuits filed at the ITC and the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The complaints centred on its signature Chuck Taylor sneaker, first introduced in 1917.

Converse said it owns trademarks and trade dress for the shoe’s “distinctive midsole design made up of a toe bumper and a toe cap, plus an upper strike and/or a lower stripe”.

It added that the defendants had been selling “confusingly similar” imitations in similar channels of trade, resulting in a likely confusion.

In a statement, the ITC said it had not yet made any decision on the merits of the case and would be assigning an administrative law judge (ALJ) to it who would schedule an evidentiary hearing.

“The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337; that initial determination is subject to review,” it said.

The ITC will set a target for completing its investigation within 45 days after it starts.

Section 337 orders become final 60 days after issuance unless revoked by the US trade representative within that period.

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More on this story

15 October 2014   US shoemaker Converse has put the boot into more than 30 companies by accusing them of infringing its trademark for the design of one of its signature trainers.
5 January 2015   US shoe maker New Balance has sued Nike-owned Converse arguing it cannot claim ownership for design features including a toe bumper and stripe on its shoes.
28 June 2016   Shoe brand Converse has been handed a mixed ruling at the US International Trade Commission as the agency said Wal-Mart, Skechers and New Balance did not infringe a trademarked shoe design, though two Converse trademarks were found to be valid.