We've all seen Converse's famous high-top sneaker called the Chuck Taylor All-Star. For some, this is a highly recognizable design, even if they can't tell you who makes the shoe. So, with it being so recognizable, is it possible for Converse to trademark the appearance of the shoe?
If you've been paying attention to intellectual property law news lately then you already know that this is the crux of the case against more than 30 companies that Converse is claiming infringed on its trademark for its famous Chuck Taylor All-Star shoe. Although many companies have already agreed to settle, Wal-Mart seems to be standing its ground, arguing that the design of the sneaker is functional and not protectable. At the center of the case is an important question: are the design elements of the Chuck Taylor All-Star, which make it so recognizable, protected by trademark law? And if so, did other companies infringe on this right by creating similar shoes of their own?
The reason Wal-Mart is standing its ground where other companies have not is because it believes that Converse does not own the rights to the design elements associated with the shoe. Wal-Mart takes this belief one step further by pointing out in its complaint that the design elements are "actually and aesthetically functional" and "are not subject to trademark protection."
Judging from the information put out by the media so far on this case, it's difficult to say which company is right or whether trademarks exist. What can be said is that this case will pose a particular challenge to both companies involved and will require extensive help from lawyers who understand all of the elements of business law.
Sources: Footwear News, "Wal-Mart Fights Back Against Converse Over Copyright Infringement," Margaret Sutherlin, March 31, 2015
The United States Patent and Trademark Office, "1202.02 Registration of Trade Dress," Accessed April 3, 2015
The United States Patent and Trademark Office, "The Difference Between Design and Utility Patents," Accessed April 3, 2015