When growing up, I played basketball 2-7 hours a day, year round. That meant a lot of basketball shoes. The shoes were everything. The shoes told people how you thought of yourself and they influenced how others thought of you.
Like everyone else of my era, I started out with Converse All Stars because I had no choice. They were crap but until better came out, we just didn’t know.
The first “modern” basketball shoe was the Adidas Superstar. I think they cost thirty dollars, which my parents thought was absolutely insane, compared to the $9.95 I was paying for my Cons down at Okun Brothers. But I had to have those shoes. Is there anyone out there who does not associate Kareem with these shoes?
At some point thereafter came my John “Hondo” Havlicek phase, which meant having to special order really ugly green suede (were they suede or were they leather?) Adidas. This told everyone that I may be White, but I can play. While wearing those shoes, great plays on my part would sometimes evoke other players to call me “Hondo.” Yes!
There was also for some short period my Walt “Clyde” Frazier era, which meant moderately ugly (and too wide for my feet — okay mom, I’m finally admitting it now) Puma Clydes. Great plays on my part led to other players remarking that I was “Clyding.” This told everyone that my ambitions extended beyond Kalamazoo. I was urban and urbane now.
There was my very short Pro-Keds period. Purple suede, I believe. Are you messin’ with me, or are you messin’ with Tiny Archibald? Totally cool shoes, totally cool image, but, when you got right down to it, they were lousy shoes. Oh well.
And there was also my Iceman phase, which meant Nikes. Did I just nail that 25 footer with someone three inches taller than me draped all over me? No big deal.
So the thought of anyone messing with any of these classics would draw my ire.
And apparently, I am not the only one. According to the Seattle Trademark Blog, an Oregon Federal Court jury just found Payless Shoesource, Inc., liable for infringing Adidas America, Inc.’s three-stripe trademark and awarded Adidas $305 million. “The jury found Payless infringed or diluted Adidas’ mark or trade dress by using a two- and four-stripe logo on its competing athletic shoes. Trial lasted 14 days. The jury deliberated for two days.” Here are the shoes the jury found were infringing:
<img alt="Payless.png" src="http://www.chinalawblog.com/Payless.png" width="436" height="501" /
Man, if Lot 3601 doesn't look just like my old Kareems, only with some mutant fourth stripe. Tort lawyers out there, can I bring a claim for post-adolesent traumatic shoe disorder? Are we talking class action? Should I be wary of allowing my childhood friend, Jeff Lane, to join in for fear that Payless will be able to prove that because he was never any good at hoops, there are no reputational damages? Same with John DiDominic.
In your face Payless, thinking you might be able to confuse people into thinking I once wore your shoes when I was always way too cool for that. Payless. Damn. That would have been an abomination. No Payless here.
So what’s the China angle? Well it is a bit tenuous, but this ought to remind you that trademark infringement can occur anywhere, not just in China, but if you want to know how to protect your trademark in China, read this article. And it ought to tell you that the shoes are everything.
Weird observation: Big difference between male and female basketball players when it comes to “the shoes.” Boys see it as a compliment when some other player buys the same shoes. Female etiquette dictates securing permission before buying the same shoes, and, oftentimes, if possible, the request is tempered by a promise to get them in a different color.
Update: The tres chic Counterfeit Chic blog just did an interesting post on this same case, entitled, “Adidas v. Payless: 3 Stripes, You’re Out.

  • Tort lawyers out there, can I bring a claim for post-adolesent traumatic shoe disorder?
    As worthy as the suit sounds, a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress is a tough road to travel.
    But all is not lost, as I understand that Roy “Pants” Pearson is out of a job and may be looking for clients. So you got that going for you.

  • max jones

    …..well you can do anything that you wanna do….you can step on my face….& slander my name all over the place…..you can do anything…that you wanna do…but don’t you, DON’T YOU…step on my blue suede shoes….well you can do anything…but lay off of my blue suede shoes…Made in Nashville Tenn. and “yes indeed still walkin'”…just about like Fats Domino….so forget all that Asian junk and if you’ve got any brain cells still firing… buy U.S.A.!
    And for all the youngsters out there…… “don’t step on my blue suede shoes” is a late 1950’s hit by the King….and if you don’t even know who the King was, then even an old timer like me can’t really help you out and you’ll just have to buy your next flip flops from the Chinese Emperor instead….
    (and I DO hope the Chinese readers and good buddies out there can appreciate the really really strange (normal) sense of humour)

  • Great post. In my view, one of your best yet. Really gives readers around the world an inside look into “Americana” and American culture.
    Yes, hoop shoes were the bomb when we grew up. Much more so than (real) football cleats or track shoes.
    It’s funny how things change as we age. Now, several decades later when I buy such shoes, I look for what’s on sale that looks reasonably decent, and no way I will pay what they ask for Air Jordans, Kobe’s latest show or LeBron’s piece of the action.
    On the legal side, to me, there is a similarity between the Payless shoes and Aididas, but enough for “confusion” that trademark law requires? Not for me because I have physically picked up, held, turned, smelled, and felt both shoes and they just can’t compare in look, feel or quality. I am wondering if discovery, though, revealed that document in the Payless file that said, “Let’s make ours look like Adidas” that was in turn blown up into that huge power point trial exhibit that all defense attorneys dread that hung Payless and its defense.

  • Weird that I had my trademark and unfair competition law exam here at Queen Mary, U. of L. just this morning. In fact I answered a question on exactly this topic – the Adidas v Nike trademark infringement case in the Hague ([2007] E.T.M.R. 12), and whether two stripes really could infringe a three-stripe mark.
    So, applying Sabel v. Puma (C251/95) and making a global appreciation of the visual, oral and conceptual impact of the mark, and applying Canon v MGM (C-39/97) as to the similarity or identicality of the goods . . . . I’m going to say those are totally bad-assed shoes in lots 3601 and 3156 and when my exams are finally over I’m going to buy me a pair of real ones!

  • Really enjoyed it, I wanted to click out and
    you kept pulling me back in! Many thanks
    and keep up the great work!

  • M.J.

    @ Chris Carr
    ….thanks a lot for your very kind feedback…and I am sure you also would agree with me that if we ever were to lose our sense of humour then we would really have lost it all…..and we should never be stingy about this either….and so just keep hoping all those other serious guys out there keep (or finally start) laughing a little too….
    Max Jones

  • Great post, until the part about me “not being any good at hoops.” I was totally with you as you wrote glowingly about your game. You were pretty good but you write much better.
    But come on. Clearly you have forgotten the countless hours of 2 on 1 games with me beating you and Mike Winch regularly in my stylin’ Converse’s with the double red and white laces for when the WMU ladies strolled by.
    Thanks for the memories. Amazing how you tie in childhood games with law. No wonder you’re thought of highly.

  • Tina Steele

    I grew up in the Okun Bros. shoe store. My dad managed it for nearly 30 years, and I worked there during my very formative college years.
    I was just googling Okun’s for nostalgia’s sake and found this. It made me smile.
    By the way, the last pair of Converse All Stars I bought from there cost me twice as much as yours, even with my employee discount. 😉

  • Great post. In my view, one of your best yet. Really gives readers around the world an inside look into “Americana” and American culture

  • Funny post!! I like your style in your post!

  • Hi Dan…. from your post I feel that I am in America 🙂 nice post

  • CR

    Came here for the sneaks, but gonna stay for the great China content. Can’t believe this is my first time here. Way cool, dude.

  • Elliot L.

    This blog is amazing!!! I am a first time visitor and I have already been here a couple of hours and I just cannot believe how much great China information you put out. Count me as a regular from now on.