Converse All Stars on display

Sporttrading Holland’s nine-year legal battle with Converse and the Dutch importer Kesbo BV soldiers on.

The U.S. sneaker giant and Kesbo accused Sporttrading Holland of trading fake Converse All-Stars and the Dutch company’s entire stock — about 200,000 units — was seized. At that time, the Dutch company had about $40 million euros in annual sales, according to Ron Jansen, who leads the company.

In 2010, Sporttrading Holding filed for bankruptcy, and was later relaunched using the same name. Sporttrading Holland now shares offices with Ferro Footwear in Drunen in the Netherlands. The business is part of $120 million RNF Holding, the worldwide owner of the Mexx brand, and other labels.

On July 20 the Breda Court in the Netherlands ruled in favor of Sporttrading Holland and ordered the return of the 200,000 units of Converse merchandise. The ruling also opened the door for the company to seek compensation, which Jansen ballparked at “tens of millions.” But after Converse filed an appeal through another court, a second judge deemed the first decision “a mistake” and ordered a new seizure on July 23, Jansen said. “The judge was a little bit fooled,” he said. “It’s the holiday period now for the next month so it’s a little difficult to act [in response.]”

Converse does not discuss the details of pending litigation, according to a company spokeswoman said.

Approximately 41,000 pairs of Converse sneakers were first seized from Sporttrading Holland’s warehouse, and additional pairs were seized in some of its affiliated retailers in 2008 or 2009, Jansen said. At that time, the retail price for each pair of sneakers was about $59 euros.

“The stupid thing is they accused us of selling fakes shoes to a retailer in Holland, which we did not. That started the case. With a false accusation, they went to the judge to get permission to seize our administration [data] and whatever was in the warehouse related to Converse,” Jansen said Thursday. “This request was granted and then they went into our premises but that was on false grounds.”

To date, Sporttrading Holland representatives have made about 20 court appearances in Holland, as well as in Germany and Belgium, due to the Dutch company’s distribution of Converse products there, Jansen said. “Converse had made accusations that they couldn’t prove. They started by saying, ‘These shoes are fake.’ They could not prove that. Then they changed their accusation to the goods were not European. In Europe, imported goods can only be brought into Europe with the consent of the brand owner or the distributor,” he said, claiming that was disproved as well.

After the first seizure, he said the company’s accountant was told to follow the money to figure out where the shoes were coming from, Jansen said. “Our accountant went to all of our suppliers, following the money, and found out that all these shoes came from distributors in Europe or from Converse themselves — proving that these goods are European.”

From his perspective, the legal fight stemmed from Converse “pushing the distributors to take high volumes, which were unsellable in their territories,” Jansen said. “There were many clearance companies like us dealing with Converse shoes and Converse did not have a grip on all those Converse shoes and all these distributors. They had contracts with large minimums of quantity that they had to take.”

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