Nike Sues BAPE for Trademark Infringement— Details on Alleged Copied Sneakers
Athletic sneaker giant Nike is suing a Japanese shoe brand for trademark infringement. Nike has accused A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, of copying some of its hottest-selling sneakers, such as the Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1, and Dunk.
In the lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court, Nike’s lawyers claim that “BAPE’s current footwear business revolves around copying Nike’s iconic designs.” Nike claims at least five BAPE sneakers are "near verbatim copies" of Nike's popular designs.
“Nike has spent decades building its rights and goodwill in those designs. To protect its hard-earned rights, Nike has a legal obligation to stop copyists when their infringements pose a significant danger to Nike’s rights,” the lawsuit states.
The BAPE shoes in question and their alleged Nike-brand counterparts are:
BAPE STA – Nike Air Force 1 Low
BAPE STA Mid – Nike Air Force 1 Mid
SK8 STA – Nike Dunk Low
COURT STA – Nike Air Jordan 1 Low
COURT STA High – Nike Air Jordan 1 High
Nike’s lawyers claim that BAPE has been selling “infringing footwear” in the U.S. off and on since 2005. However, the Japanese shoe company “drastically increased the volume and scope of its infringement” in 2021, the lawsuit claims.
Nike asked BAPE to stop copying their designs, but BAPE refused, the lawsuit claims.
“BAPE’s copying is and always has been unacceptable to Nike, and because BAPE’s infringements have recently grown to become a significant danger to Nike’s rights, Nike must act now,” the lawsuit states.
Who owns BAPE?
BAPE is owned by the Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T Group, which bought a majority stake in the company for about $2.8 million in 2011.
Who founded BAPE?
The BAPE fashion brand was founded in 1993 by Nigö, a Japanese fashion designer, disc jockey, and record producer whose birth name is Tomoaki Nagao. In a 2006 interview with CNN Asia, Nigö said the brand name, A Bathing Ape, was meant to be a sarcastic reference to the Japanese saying, “a bathing ape in lukewarm water,” which refers to a spoiled and pampered younger generation.
The brand name may have more to do with Nigö’s fixation on the 1968 movie, “The Planet of the Apes,” reports Kansai Scene.
The BAPE brand includes shoes as well as streetwear and accessories for men, women, and children. Over the years, BAPE has become a popular hip-hop brand worn by celebrities such as Pharrell, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dog, and Soulja Boy.
BAPE operates U.S. brick-and-mortar stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. The brand also has stores in various major cities around the world.
Nike has sued other companies for trademark infringement.
This isn’t the first time Nike has sued another company for trademark infringement. In 2021, Nike filed a trademark lawsuit against MSCHF Product Studio for the satanic-themed Air Max 97 shoes it produced in partnership with rapper Lil Nas X.
Nike also sued shoe designer John Geiger and manufacturer La La Land for trademark infringement claiming that Geiger’s GF-01 shoe was too similar to the Nike Air Force 1. After a year-long battle, the lawsuit was settled and Geiger agreed to modify the shoe’s design, Hypebeast reported in 2022.