Nike’s legal battle involving designer John Geiger, who is accused of ripping off its iconic Air Force 1, continued last week when the sneaker brand filed an opposition to Geiger’s motion to have the claims against him dismissed. In it, Nike’s lawyers describe the motion to dismiss as “both procedurally improper and fundamentally wrong as a matter of law.”
Nike sued California-based manufacturer La La Land Production for trademark infringement in January 2021, alleging that it had made bootleg versions of Nike sneakers, including those for designer Warren Lotas. Nike added Geiger to the complaint in August, saying that La La Land made his GF-01 shoe, which is based on the Air Force 1.
In the motion to dismiss the amended complaint against him this month, Geiger’s lawyers argued that Nike’s trade dress, a kind of trademark that deals with something’s physical appearance, for the Air Force 1 was not strong enough to protect. They pointed out differences between the GF-01 shoe and the Air Force 1, claiming that consumers would not likely confuse the two shoes.
In the response filed last week, Nike said that Geiger’s GF-01 sneaker and the trade dress for its Air Force 1 are nearly identical. The memo references how Geiger himself has acknowledged the shoes’ similarities, writing “that’s the point” in an Instagram comment addressing a user pointing out how his model looks like the Air Force 1.
“In other words,” the memo reads, “rather than dispelling any potential confusion, John Geiger himself concedes that the relatedness was the very point of creating the shoe.”
Nike did not respond to a request for comment. Details of Geiger’s argument aside, Nike’s lawyers say that his motion to dismiss fails because it is based heavily on impermissible extrinsic evidence that goes beyond what was included in the amended complaint.
Geiger’s lawyers have argued that the Air Force 1 is recognizable as a Nike item because of the large Swoosh across the side, not because of its overall shape and design. Because the GF-01 shoe uses a logo distinct from the Swoosh, they say, it is virtually impossible to confuse the shoes. Nike rejects this argument, saying it would allow anyone to rip off its shoes by simply replacing its logos with their own.
“The issue of whether and to what extent consumers recognize the Air Force 1 trade dress in the absence of the Swoosh is a question of fact for the jury and inappropriate to consider on a motion to dismiss,” the memo from Nike reads.
In Geiger’s motion to dismiss, his lawyers say that La La Land had only made a prototype shoe for him and wasn’t regularly producing the GF-01. In Nike’s response, the brand claims that it’s obtained documents showing La La Land has “produced significant quantities of multiple styles of the GF-01” sneaker.
In a statement to Complex, Geiger again distanced himself from La La Land.
“Nowhere in its amended complaint does Nike accuse me of selling ‘fake’ or counterfeit Nikes, as it does for La La Land,” Geiger said. “But in its opposition to our motion to dismiss, Nike has flipped the script, suddenly claiming that me and La La Land worked together to create a knockoff sneaker. This is exactly the kind of unavoidable confusion that will result if Nike is allowed to ‘poison the well’ by tying me to La La Land.”