Vans’ Old Skool sneakers are so cool that it seems everybody wants to wear them — or make them.
Earlier this month, Vans filed a lawsuit against Primark, the Irish-based fast-fashion retailer, for copying two of its trademark sneakers. One of those sneakers was the Old Skool shoe. Then last week, Vans filed another lawsuit, this time against Target, for a similar violation — of the same shoe.
But the footwear and apparel company, owned by parent VF Corp., was not flattered.
In the latest case, Vans is suing Target Corp. for trademark infringement and unfair competition. The Camella Lace Up Sneaker, which is part of its Wild Fable line, is available on the mass merchant’s web site for $15. A considerable discount compared with the authentic Vans Old Skool, which retail for around $60 a pair.
To the untrained eye, the Camella sneaker looks a lot like Vans’ Old Skool shoe — both are in black with white side stripes. Vans alleges that the overall shape and silhouette are knockoffs, too. Vans also said — much like the Primark case — that the look-alike products are confusing to consumers; some shoppers have even started referring to the Target version as “fake Vans.”
“I love my fake Vans!” one shopper wrote in a review on target.com.
Vans argued that the side stripe is instantly recognizable and a nonfunctional design element, which is necessary in order to be eligible for trademark protection.
Vans’ Old Skool sneaker, which was launched in 1977, consistently uses “distinctive trademarks and trade dress, combined with Vans’ peerless reputation for lifestyle and active shoes, [which] has been instrumental in Vans’ lasting popularity,” the court documents state.
The suit goes on to explain that Target launched its Wild Fable line in August 2017 in an attempt to attract Millennial-aged and Gen Z shoppers, and is feeding off Vans’ success in the process. Target even goes so far as to feature an advertisement with a model next to a checkered backpack — another recognizable trademark of the Vans brand.
In fact, Vans alleges that Target has “a desire to misappropriate Vans’ reputation and cachet to lend unwarranted and instant credibility to Target’s Wild Fable product line upon its launch,” court documents state.
Vans has asked Target to stop manufacturing and selling the infringing products.
A representative for Target said in an email that the company has a “deep appreciation and respect for design rights.”
“We’re aware of the lawsuit filing and have been in contact with our vendor, who is looking into the claims,” the representative wrote.
Meanwhile, Vans’ popularity continues to surge. Parent company VF said the Vans business is on track to reach $5 billion in revenues by 2023.
During the company’s Oct. 19 conference call, Steve Rendle, VF’s president and chief executive officer, said the Vans brands had an “exceptional quarter” across all regions and estimated that the Old Skool shoes are about 25 percent of sales.