Vans sues Walmart over alleged sneaker knockoffs

2 minute read

Walmart's logo is seen outside one of its stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

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  • Vans said Walmart sells infringing versions of over 20 shoe lines
  • Walmart allegedly introduced more copycats after contacted by Vans

(Reuters) - Skateboarding-shoe maker Vans Inc sued Walmart Inc in California federal court on Monday, accusing the retail giant of infringing its trademarks by selling copycat versions of more than 20 versions of its shoes.

All of the Walmart shoes cost less than $20 and are "cheap, poorly made, and confusingly similar" to $60 Vans, according to the complaint.

Vans also says Walmart knows that those it pays to review and advertise its shoes online specifically promote them as "dupes" or "knockoffs" that can be bought for less than the originals.

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The complaint said Walmart is engaged in a "concerted, systematic, and escalating campaign" to sell copies of "virtually all" of Vans' best-selling shoes. According to the complaint, Walmart introduced an "avalanche" of infringing shoes months after Vans sent a letter notifying it that it was misusing one of Vans' designs.

Walmart spokesperson Abby Williams said the company respects the intellectual property rights of others, and will respond once it's served with the complaint.

The shoes listed in the complaint include alleged copies of Vans' Old Skool, Sk8-Hi, and Checkerboard Slip-On sneakers.

The complaint also says Walmart markets the shoes as "skate" or "retro" sneakers to suggest an affiliation with Vans, which first became popular in the 1970s among skateboarders in southern California.

Vans didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, nor its attorneys Nicholas Hoffman, Tanya Greene, and Lucy Wheatly of McGuireWoods.

Vans' parent company, Denver-based VF Corp, also owns clothing and shoe brands including The North Face and Timberland.

Vans sued Target for allegedly infringing its Old Skool skate-shoe trademarks in 2018, in a case the parties agreed to dismiss last year.

The case is Vans Inc v. Walmart Inc, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 8:21-cv-01876.

For Vans: Nicholas Hoffman, Tanya Greene, and Lucy Wheatly of McGuireWoods

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated with comment from Walmart.)

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com