Nike Inc. won a victory in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that barred a smaller rival from suing to void the company’s trademark for its top-selling Air Force 1 sneakers. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a unanimous Court in last month’s ruling that Nike’s promise not to pursue an infringement lawsuit against Already LLC, maker of Yums sneakers, meant that the Texas company could not pursue its own trademark challenge. The Chief Justice wrote:
Already’s arguments boil down to a basic policy objection that dismissing this case allows Nike to bully small innovators lawfully operating in the public domain.
The Chief Justice wrote that Already’s argument did not justify allowing its lawsuit to proceed. The decision upheld a November 2011 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. The decision may help large companies such as Nike rival Adidas SE and luxury goods makers Coach Inc. and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, which often sue to prevent alleged “imitators” from interfering with their revenue streams and customer goodwill.
Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred in the decision, saying that other companies should not assume they can automatically end rivals’ trademark cases with covenants similar to Nike’s. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor joined Kennedy’s concurrence. Two companies with well-known trademarks, clothing maker Levi Strauss & Co. and automaker Volkswagen AG, filed briefs supporting Nike. The case is Already LLC v. Nike Inc., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-982.
Source: Chicago Tribune
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