Supreme Court rules in favor of Nike

The U.S. Supreme Court heard a rare business litigation case brought by a rival to Nike, Inc.. The case concerned a trademark issue with one of the competitor’s models of sneakers. The court decided unanimously that Nike’s decision to waive its possible rights in an infringement suit meant that the challenger, Already LLC, could not pursue a reciprocal case.

The case, Already LLC v. Nike Inc., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-982, stemmed from a 2009 disagreement when Nike sued Already for trademark infringement for its use of stitching patterns and other features used on the Sugar and Soulja Boy models of sneakers. Nike claimed that these features were too much like those on its own Air Force 1 brand launched in 1982.

Already LLC countersued to inactivate Nike’s trademark so that it could produce its own brand of shoes with the stitching and other features. On further consideration, Nike dropped its lawsuit, believing that that company was not a serious commercial threat to its own sales. Nike gave Already a covenant not to use. However, Already refused to drop its case against the giant manufacturer. The justices’ decision was based in part on the court’s belief that allowing Already to sue Nike would also open the door for large manufacturers to sue smaller competitors.

A commercial attorney represents companies when they file lawsuits against competitors or when they are sued by competing companies. A commercial lawyer can explain complicated court decisions and assist company management in making decisions about how to handle issues that arise regarding proprietary information, trademarks, and copyrights as well as contract negotiations.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Supreme Court rules for Nike in trademark case,” Jan. 9, 2013