oldskool

Vans’ striped shoe looks are nothing so distinctive, Target and Farylrobin argued in court filings Thursday, responding to the sneaker brand’s claims that their Camella Lace-Up Sneaker and Carissa Sneaker rip off Vans’ Old Skool shoe and Sk8-Hi shoe.

Vans had leveled trademark infringement and unfair competition claims against the companies, claiming the two other brands’ shoes evoke its signature “side stripe,” a recurring motif in Vans shoes and apparel since the 1970s, according to its amended complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in California. Vans first filed the suit last  December.

The contested designs are part of Target’s Wild Fable line, which includes shoes supplied by Farylrobin. The Wild Fable shoes in question bear thick white stripes along the sides that curve upwards in an arc, while the Vans side stripe is a little more wiggly white line.  

But Target and Farylrobin argued that Vans does not have a distinctive trade dress and that its shoe designs are not “source-identifying,” according to their answers to the complaint filed Thursday.

“Target denies that the Side Stripe trademark is distinctive and denies that the same should be afforded tremendous strength,” Target wrote in its filing.

In February, Target and Farylrobin moved to dismiss Vans’ trade dress infringement claim, arguing that Vans was making a broad definition of “trade dress” — the design elements and overall look customers might associate with a particular brand.  

They claimed in their filing at the time that Vans was trying to stifle competition and that it “cherry picks elements that appear on defendants’ sneakers but are ubiquitous in the sneaker industry, and uses terminology that is so vague as to make the purported trade dress impossible to pin down.”

But U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford denied the motion in April, saying that Vans’ trade dress claim was detailed enough to proceed.

“Trade dress is the ‘total image’ of a product,” the court said in the order. “While that image is made up of component parts that must be identified, the overarching question for the court is whether the total effect of the defendants’ product is to create confusion with plaintiffs’ product and summon the secondary meaning of plaintiffs’ trade dress.”   

Vans has argued also that Target further appropriates its aesthetic by promoting the shoes in ads featuring models on skateboards. Vans’ Old Skool shoe, which came out in 1977, has been closely associated with skater culture, Vans said in its amended complaint.

“At Target, we have a deep appreciation and respect for design rights,” a representative for Target said in a statement Friday. “We’ll continue to work with our vendor to address these claims in court.”

Farylrobin said it does not comment on pending litigation. Vans did not comment.

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