John Geiger Countersues Nike in Air Force 1 Lookalike Lawsuit

Designer John Geiger has fired back against Nike in the brand's lawsuit over his GF-01 sneakers, which Nike says infringes on the its Air Force 1.

John Geiger GF-01 vs. Nike Air Force 1

Image via US District Court

John Geiger GF-01 vs. Nike Air Force 1

The litigation between Nike and John Geiger over the designer’s Air Force 1 lookalike sneaker is escalating in California district court this week.

In a document filed Tuesday, Geiger’s attorneys countersued Nike’s lawsuit with their own claims, seeking to “invalidate and cancel” what the Geiger team argues are unenforceable trademarks. Throughout the 68-page document, Geiger responds to each statement made in Nike’s August 2021 amended complaint, which added the designer to an existing lawsuit against Los Angeles-based La La Land Production & Design Inc. In the amended suit from August, Nike claimed that Geiger’s GF-01 sneakers, which it says were made by La La Land Production, infringe on the trade dress of its own Air Force 1 design. Geiger says La La Land Production “merely created a GF-01 prototype based on the design Geiger provided” and is not involved in the manufacturing.

The crux of Geiger’s defense revolves around the pieces of the Air Force 1 which are protected by Nike’s trade dress registration, namely the exterior stitching, paneling, eyelets, and the ridge-patterned outsole. It cites recently released modified versions of the Air Force 1, like Travis Scott’s 2019 Cactus Jack collaboration, 2021’s Air Force 1 Experimental (which had its own share of legal issues), and a Serena Williams-inspired iteration as examples of Nike deviating from its own trade dress elements. Because of this, the counterclaim argues that Nike’s trade dress protections are essentially too vague.

John Geiger GF-01 vs. Nike Air Force 1 (Variations)

“The purported trade dress depicted in these registrations does not have sufficient secondary meaning to be perceived as a designation of origin,” Geiger’s defense argues.

A side-by-side breakdown of Nike’s Air Force 1 and Geiger’s GF-01 is used to highlight the differences between the two shoe designs. Details mentioned include the slope of the toe box, the height of the midsole, the curvature of the heel, lack of Nike branding, and the pattern of the outsole. The claim also takes a potshot at Nike’s material selection, claiming the GF-01s are of higher quality: “Moreover, the GF-01 is constructed with premium leather and, on certain models, fuzzy chenille ‘G’ branding that is more luxurious than the materials Nike uses on the Air Force 1.”

It’s for these reasons, along with the GF-01’s higher price point and stockist exclusivity, that Geiger argues it’s unreasonable to assume a customer could be confused between the two sneakers.

A portion of the counterclaim makes mention of other Air Force 1-style designs made by other brands which Nike has not taken legal action against. These include A Bathing Ape’s Bapesta along with similar footwear by Kappa, Tommy Hilfiger, and Walmart. 

John Geiger GF-01 vs. Nike Air Force 1 (Bape)

Earlier this month, after his motion to dismiss Nike’s original amended complaint was dismissed, Geiger released an NFT version of the lawsuit.

As part of the counterclaim, Geiger is asking that Nike’s Air Force 1 trade dress registration be ruled invalid and unenforceable by law. The designer is also seeking restitution for the case and attorneys’ fees.

The Geiger brand provided the following statement on the latest filing: “It’s easy to get caught in the headlines of this case, but once you read into the details of the counterclaim, you’ll see our shoes speak for themselves. We are a different class of higher quality luxury shoes that sells for more than double the standard AF1. There is no likelihood of confusion and there never has been a likelihood of confusion for consumers. Sneakerheads are sophisticated consumers who know this and will never be confused between the two. Nike is Nike and JG is JG.”