Possible Trade Dress Infringement with Iconic adidas Stan Smith Tennis Shoe
Designer Isabel Marant and adidas have many things in common. For starters, they are both loved by celebrities. Marant's fans include Katie Holmes, Miranda Kerr, Sienna Miller, Kate Bosworth, Gisele Bundchen, Jessica Alba, Kate Moss, Heidi Klum, Natalie Portman and more. While adidas' fans include Katy Perry, Gisele Bundchen, Pharell, Kate Moss, Jay-Z, Rihanna, David Beckham, Marc Jacobs and many, many more.

Both companies have followers of a different style as well: They are both widely imitated. Isabel Marant's Bekket trainers and Dicker boots have been copied by countless shoe makers. However, today, Marant's Bart low-tops are raising eyebrows for looking a bit too much like the iconic adidas Stan Smith.

The problem is with the colored heel tab. Some of Marant's basic Bart sneakers are all white except for the colored back heel tab, just like the Stan Smith. And, at quick glance, it is easy to confuse the two. The adidas Stan Smith comes in a variety of heel tab colors, including red, green and blue with the Stan Smith written in white. Marant's is a metallic red with Isabel Marant written in white. There are big similarities and some smaller differences (including the color of thread used).

According to the International Trademark Assocation, "Trade dress is the overall commercial image (look and feel) of a product or service that indicates or identifies the source of the product or service and distinguishes it from those of others. It may include the design or configuration of a product; the labeling and packaging of goods; and/or the décor or environment in which services are provided." Both trademarks and trade dress are regulated by the law of Unfair Competition; trade dress is a form of intellectual property.

The big issue in a trade dress infringement case is whether the similarities could cause customers confusion and could damage the sale of adidas' products. The confusion could come because adidas is known to collaborate with designers, leading customers to assume that this is an authorized collaboration. Collaborations of the Stan Smith style include French retailer Colette, Pharrell Williams and designer Raf Simons. Could this possible infringement affect adidas sales? Marant's version is being sold in stores where people who might have bought the Stan Smith might shop so, potentially, yes, adidas could lose customers.

The site FashionLaw.com has some interesting insight into this possible Marant/adidas situation.

Interestingly, adidas has sued other companies for similar issues. In 2008 adidas took Payless Shoes to court over some "key" design features -- features which serve as an indication of the brand -- including the iconic three stripes and the outer back heel tab. In that case, a federal jury in Oregon awarded adidas $305 million. Among trademark and trade dress infringement, it was stated that Payless bought multiple versions of adidas three-stripe sneakers then sent them off to be manufactured with two or four stripes… and sold 30 million pairs, approximately $400 million worth.

According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (back in 2008), the verdict was broken down like this: "The actual damages — for trademark and trade dress infringement, trademark and trade dress dilution, and unfair and deceptive trade practices — amounted to $30 million. With the finding of willfulness, the jury also ordered Payless to disgorge profits, which amounted to about $137 million on the infringing shoes. The punitive damages mirrored the disgorged profits, for a total of about $305 million."

There is no question that the Stan Smith shoe by adidas is iconic. The style was named the "Stan Smith" by adidas back in 1971, and has enjoyed popularity ever since. As recently as December 2014, Footwear News gave it their Footwear News Achievement Award: Shoe of the Year.