Trade Dress Mess
A new record was set this summer when a federal jury ordered Payless ShoeSource to pay $304.6 million to Adidas for trademark infringement. It was the largest award in a trademark-infringement case in U.S. history, and now Payless has decided to settle a similar case with K-Swiss.
Wait? Payless ShoeSource? The home of insanely cheap shoes? The mecca for drag queens in search of size 16 stilettos? I don't know about you, but I assumed that the biggest trademark-infringement cases in this country would probably involve something more lucrative than sneakers. Turns out the previous record was held by big-pharma Pfizer, but that award, decided in 1999, was $143 million, less than half the mega-judgment against Payless.
What happened? After all, it's not that Payless tried to pass off their cheap sneakers as Adidas by putting a misleading label in them - Abibas, for instance. No, their tragic, infringing error was putting two or four stripes on the sides of their shoes - according to the suit, this tricked consumers into thinking the shoes were made by Adidas . . . even though Adidas shoes always have three stripes.
As a long-time aficionado of Payless' cheap wares, I think I can safely say that anyone who's ever set foot in a Payless ShoeSource knows immediately from the bargain-basement prices and the intoxicating smell of vinyl that none of the shoes on offer are from the big brands.