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Nike sues Bape for trademark infringement of multiple sneaker styles

By Rachel Douglass


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Nike Air Force 1 Low, courtesy of Sneaker Jagers

Sportswear giant Nike has moved to sue its competitor Bape alleging that the Japanese brand’s footwear business “revolves around copying” its designs.

In a court filing, Nike outlined the shoes in question, including its two styles of its Air Force 1, the Dunk and two Air Jordan 1 silhouettes.

Imagery presented as part of the filing attempted to draw comparisons between Nike’s designs and a series of Bape sneakers, including the brand’s Bape Sta, Sk8 Sta and Court Sta.

Nike stated that Bape’s “infringements have recently grown to become a significant danger to Nike’s rights”, claiming its actions could be traced back to 2005, when it had reportedly released the first set of infringing footwear in the US.

It appears that this course of action has only been taken as Bape seemingly ramped up the supply of the shoe styles in question in recent years.

Nike said the company had “drastically increased the volume and scope of its infringement”, after it further noted the its presence in the US hadn’t been consistent over a 15 year period.

Case comes after Bape increases presence in US

It also added that it had already met with Bape in 2009 to address the alleged pirating of Nike’s Air Force 1, after which Bape reduced its US activities and, on an unrelated note, its CEO Tomoaki Nagao (Nigo) stepped down from the company.

Now, however, Bape has been rapidly expanding in the market, opening brick-and-mortar stores across the country, introducing more designs that bear resemblance to Nike shoes, and re-releasing styles that had sparked concerns before.

In the filing, Nike reiterated: “Bape’s copying is and always has been unacceptable to Nike, and because Bape’s infringements have recently grown to become a significant danger to Nike’s rights, Nike must act now.

“Nike notified Bape of its infringements and asked it to stop. Bape refused to do so. Instead, Bape continues to escalate its infringing activity. Nike, therefore, is forced to bring this lawsuit to stop Bape’s unauthorised use of Nike’s trademarks.”

The move follows a string of similar trademark cases initiated by Nike over recent years as it attempts to reign in potential infringement.

Most recently, the brand filed a case against Kurt Geiger also concerning the Air Force 1 and was embroiled in a long legal battle against Warren Lotas over the Dunk Low.

In this case, Nike is calling on Bape to relinquish the manufacturing, advertising and selling of any products that are substantially indistinguishable from its own and halt any act which could dilute the quality of Nike’s products and reputation.