Montero Lamar Hill, better known by his stage name Lil Nas X, recently sparked controversy when he unveiled special limited-edition “Satan Shoes” as part of a collaboration with a design company that apparently customized Nike’s Air Max 97 sneakers to go along with a new music video from the popular rapper for his song “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).”
Almost immediately, Nike distanced itself from the project and filed a lawsuit against the designers claiming copyright infringement. Now, Breitbart reports that a federal judge has agreed with the shoe company and issued a temporary restraining order barring the sale and shipment of the custom sneakers.
At issue are pairs of black and red Satan-themed sneakers, which were designed jointly by MSCHF Product Studio and Lil Nas X. (Notably, the rapper is not named in the suit.) But while they may have come up with the color scheme and imagery, the shoes still prominently feature Nike’s trademarked “Swoosh” logo, and the trademarked “Nike” name has appeared in advertisements for the new shoes, as Breitbart notes.
MSCHF x Lil Nas X “Satan Shoes” 🏹
👟Nike Air Max ’97
🩸Contains 60cc ink and 1 drop of human blood
🗡️666 Pairs, individually numbered
🗓️March 29th, 2021 pic.twitter.com/XUMA9TKGSX
— SAINT (@saint) March 26, 2021
Attorneys for Nike successfully argued that the use of the brand name and its logo had caused confusion among consumers, who they said were led to believe Nike had approved of and been involved with the design process, which was not the case.
Nike argues trademark infringement
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nike’s attorneys said during a hearing Thursday that they had “submitted evidence that even sophisticated sneakerheads were confused” about the company’s role in the sneaker design, which had prompted calls for a boycott.
“We have submitted numerous evidence that some consumers are saying they will never buy Nike shoes ever again,” the lawyers added.
As part of the proceedings, U.S. District Court Judge Eric Komitee asked Nike’s legal team how much “tarnishment is required” of the brand before courts should intervene. But while Nike’s attorneys conceded that “there’s no bright line,” they said “the more famous the mark — and we think Nike’s swoosh is one of the most famous marks of all time — the more protection it is afforded.”
Attorneys for MSCHF meanwhile argued that the special sneakers were works of art protected under the First Amendment, that it had never been claimed or insinuated that Nike was “affiliated” with the project, and that the legal challenge was largely a moot point now, as nearly all 666 pairs of the limited-edition shoes had already been sold and shipped.
Judge hands down the order
In his five-page ruling, Judge Komitee wrote that, based on what he had seen and heard thus far, he was inclined to believe that Nike would prevail on the merits of its claims that MSCHF and Lil Nas X had violated trademark laws.
As such, the judge issued a temporary restraining order pending further hearings, as The Hollywood Reporter revealed. The order reportedly prohibits MSCHF from fulfilling any further orders for the custom sneakers, and from using or even referring to the Nike name or its “Swoosh” logo in any marketing materials, until a proper injunction can be granted or denied.
Only time will tell how the courts ultimately rule in this clearly controversial case.