Recently, Nike has taken a more aggressive approach to protecting its trademarks and intellectual property, filing a lawsuit against MSCHF over the company’s Lil’ Nas X-inspired “Satan” sneakers, doing the same with designer Warren Lotas over his knockoff Dunks, and securing a trademark for the Air Jordan 1 in wake of the growing number of brands producing knockoff versions with altered logos. According to The Fashion Law, Nike’s next move may be shutting down customizers of Nike products entirely, beginning with a legal battle against Drip Creationz.
Documents obtained by TFL confirm that Nike filed a complaint against Customs By Ilene, Inc., or Drip Creationz, in federal court Monday, alleging trademark infringement and dilution, as well as counterfeiting. In the lawsuit, Nike alleges that Drip Creationz is selling counterfeit Nike products, most notably “knockoff Air Force 1-style shoes,” that infringe on its trademark and iconic Swoosh logo. They also note poor craftsmanship, pointing out that the shoes have “crooked proportions, messy stitching, cheap details, and [are] taller than the real Air Force 1 shoes.”
The lawsuit suggests that Drop Creationz deconstructs authentic Air Force 1s before replacing and/or adding new material. Nike says the company’s shoes have been materially altered in ways it never approved or authorized. Furthermore, they reference unapproved colorways and imagery on the company’s customs, citing Burberry, Cheetos and Travis Scott Astroworld graphic pairs among others that could potentially cause market confusion and interfere with its ability “to choose who it collaborates with, which colorways it releases, and what message its designs convey.” Drip Creationz also offers its “own” sneaker called the D1, an Air Force 1-inspired design that sells for $100-$120.
Anticipating that some will see this as an attack on the “little guy,” Nike states that “it has no desire to limit the individual expression of creatives and artisans, many of whom are some of Nike’s biggest fans.” However, it also says that it “cannot allow ‘customizers’ like Drip Creationz to build a business on the backs of its most iconic trademarks, undermining the value of those marks and the message they convey to consumers.” The brand’s position is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish authorized Nike product from unauthorized customs
The irony here is that Nike and Virgil Abloh recently revealed a collection of Louis Vuitton x Air Force 1s directly inspired by unauthorized customs popularized in the 80s. Featuring all-over LV monogram and Damier Ebène prints, the shoes reference pairs originally produced by Harlem-based Dapper Dan’s Boutique. There’s murky waters to navigate when you’re threatening and attempting to profit from ‘culture’ at the same time.
For the reasons laid out, Nike is seeking monetary damages in an amount that will be determined at trial, as well as an injunction that would stop Drop Creationz from selling products that further infringe on its trademarks.