Get thee behind Nike: Shoemaker files trademark infringement suit over “Satan” shoes

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A very bad idea turns out to be very bad on multiple levels. Having helped rapper Lil Nas X troll Christians with “Satan shoes” at $1018 a pair, manufacturer MSCHF has drawn the ire of Nike. The shoemaking giant sued over trademark infringement yesterday in federal court, after having to spend the previous weekend explaining that it had nothing to do with Lil Nas X’s idiocy:

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Nike filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court on Monday against the company that released a controversial customized version of the sportswear giant’s sneakers in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X.

The “Old Town Road” artist worked with streetwear company MSCHF to release “Satan Shoes” on Monday. The sneakers are modified Nike Air Max 97s — decorated with a pentagram pendant and a reference to Luke 10:18, a Bible verse about Satan’s fall from heaven.

Someone apparently never told MSCHF that you can’t lift the design of someone else’s shoe and sell it as your own without a licensing agreement. This lawsuit gets even more basic, however. MSCHF also lifted Nike’s trademarked logo, one of the most recognizable in consumer products, and merely reversed it:

Nike’s trademark infringement suit against MSCHF — Lil Nas X was not named as a defendant in the complaint — comes after many believed it was involved with the Satan Shoes, despite the company releasing a statement over the weekend saying it had nothing to do the manufacture or sale of the sneakers.

The lawsuit argues that Nike must maintain control over its brand “by setting the record straight” on what products bear its distinctive “SWOOSH” logo.

This created the kind of brand confusion and damage that trademarks are designed to prevent. The lawsuit notes that outraged consumers, believing that Nike produced these “Satan shoes,” have already begun organizing boycotts against the manufacturer.

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The lawsuit calls for an end to sales of the shoe, which is akin to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. MSCHF sold out its stock of 666 pairs within minutes, earning close to $700,000 in revenue. There is no more inventory to enjoin at this point, but there are damages to be collected, and any satire defense will quickly be swallowed up by the obvious commercial usage MSCHF made of these designs.

One can bet that Nike won’t settle for an apology, if for no other reason than to make a very big example of MSCHF, if not Lil Nas X, who thus far has not been named in the suit. Their corporate lawyers will bury MSCHF in legal maneuvering that could cost them millions in the long run — perhaps even more than simply losing the case would do. The best way to ensure that future start-ups don’t infringe on their trademarks and copyrights is to make a very public spectacle of MSCHF’s demolition.

In other words, perhaps the makers of the Satan shoe should expect a crucifixion. They certainly have it coming.

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