Vans wins temporary ban on sales of Walmart's 'knockoff' sneakers

2 minute read

Shoes and backpack of Vans are seen in a shop window in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso

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  • Vans said Walmart had systematic campaign to rip off its shoes
  • Judge said Vans likely to win on its claims

(Reuters) - Vans Inc has convinced a California federal court to block sales of Walmart Inc shoes that allegedly copy its designs during the duration of their trademark infringement litigation.

A federal judge said in an opinion made public Friday that Vans was likely to win on its trademark claims against the retail giant and would be irreparably harmed without the sales ban.

Costa Mesa, California-based Vans' shoes first gained fame in the 1970s among skateboarders in southern California, and it has since become a massively popular global brand.

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Vans sued Walmart in November, arguing Walmart had engaged in a concerted effort to rip off "virtually all" of Vans' best-selling sneakers.

The Walmart shoes cost less than $20 and are "cheap, poorly made, and confusingly similar" to $60 Vans, according to the lawsuit. Vans also said Walmart is aware that affiliates it pays to review its shoes online promote them as cheaper "dupes" or "knockoffs."

Walmart countered Vans' request for the ban in January, arguing that Vans' designs were ineligible for trademark protection and it could not prove Walmart's shoes were likely to cause customer confusion. Walmart also said Vans could not show the "irreparable harm" necessary for an early block on its sales.

"There was no urgency precipitating this motion," Walmart argued. "Vans filed the motion at least 18 months after Walmart began selling accused shoes."

But U.S. District Judge David Carter said Thursday that Walmart's shoes "clearly bear striking similarities" to Vans', that Walmart showed some intent to confuse consumers and that there was evidence customers had actually been confused.

Vans was also likely to suffer irreparable harm without an immediate block to Walmart's sales, in part because Walmart flooded the market with the alleged knockoffs, Carter said.

Walmart has said that an injunction would cost it tens of millions of dollars.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said Friday that the company would continue to defend itself from the claims and was reviewing the order and considering its options.

Vans and its attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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: Nick Hoffman, Tanya Greene, and Lucy Wheatley of McGuireWoods

For Walmart: Lawrence Iser of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump Holley, Anthony Lo Cicero of Amster Rothstein & Ebenstein

Read more:

Vans sues Walmart over alleged sneaker knockoffs

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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