The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Nike this morning in a trademark dispute over Nike’s Air Force 1 low-cut sneakers.Nike had previously sued a smaller sneaker company called Already for allegedly infringing the trademark for the Air Force sneakers. That suit prompted Already to file a countersuit claiming Nike’s trademark was actually bogus and it couldn’t sue its tiny rival.
After it decided Already’s shoes weren’t really a threat, Nike dropped the case and filed a covenant, or promise, not to sue the smaller retailer over the Air Force shoes ever again.
Already still wanted to pursue its case to void the trademark and took its case to the nation’s highest court after an appeals court shot it down.
In its unanimous decision Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court found Nike’s promise not to sue made Already’s trademark challenge moot, or no longer a valid case.
“Already’s arguments boil down to a basic policy objection that dismissing this case allows Nike to bully small innovators lawfully operating in the public domain,” the high court ruled.
However, the court ruled, accepting that theory would also allow bigger companies to continue going to court to try to void each other’s trademarks.
“This would further encourage parties to employ litigation as a weapon against their competitors,” the opinion stated, “rather than as a last resort for settling disputes.”
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