After going through a months-long lawsuit against designer Warren Lotas over his Dunk lookalikes last year, Nike is taking steps to protect more of its iconic sneakers. Last week, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officially granted Nike’s trademark for the Air Jordan 1.
As spotted by lawyer Zak Kurtz, who runs Sneaker Law Firm, Nike’s trade dress application for the Air Jordan 1 was registered by the USPTO on June 1, 2021. Originally filed by Nike on July 31, 2020, the approval ran into some delays due to early opposition from skate brand Vans, which Nike has recently battled with over the former’s signature checkerboard pattern. The new trade dress approval also pertains to the Air Jordan 1 Low and Air Jordan 1 Low SE models.
The fine print of the trade dress filing calls out the Air Jordan 1’s panels, eyelets, midsole ridge pattern and stitching, and the “relative position of these elements to each other.”
This is especially notable with the recent proliferation of bootleg Air Jordan 1s, as this protection is not a trademark for Nike’s branding but rather trade dress for the overall composition of the sneaker. Many popular bootlegs replace Nike’s Swoosh and other logos with new emblems while retaining design cues that could, in theory, otherwise violate this new trade dress protection.
Kurtz says the Air Jordan 1’s “acquired distinctiveness,” legal jargon for becoming iconic over time, made it an ideal candidate for trade dress application. He notes that Nike has become aggressive with pursuing trade dress protection in recent months, citing applications for the Air Jordan 3, Air Jordan 4, and Air Jordan 5 in April as well as the Air Jordan 11 and Nike Air Foamposite in May.
Trade dress is a type of intellectual property pertaining to the visual appearance of its product and/or packaging. It’s similar to a trademark, although trademarks are specifically used for things like logos and signs.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the wave of bootleg popularity, but Kurtz speculates that Nike is looking more to send a message rather than actually sue any fledgling designers.