The Devil Wants Your Soles but Nike Says "No"
While most people would agree that it is not a good idea to sell your soul to the Devil, Satan, with the help of MSCHF Product Studio, Inc. and Lil Nas X, thought of a clever way to take your soles and make you pay for it. That is until Nike decided to swoosh in and slap Satan with a Trademark Infringement lawsuit.
While I had no idea that Satan was so fashion-forward, he, unfortunately, is not an original thinker. Instead of forging an original concert sneaker Satan took Nike Air Max 97 sneakers and modified them to meet his sinister style.
The concept which was developed by MSCHF and Lil Nas X featured adding an inverted cross, a pentagram, and the words "Luke 10:18" ("And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.") to the Nike sneakers. That's not all, for the ultimate in Satanic style, the creators decided to modify the Nike signature air bubble cushioning sole by adding ink and . . .here come the best (or worst) part . . . a single drop of human blood, which was donated by members of the MSCHF art collective. MSCHF released 666 pairs of their devilish designs at the cost of $1,018 per pair. They sold out in less than a minute.
Once the sneakers were released, people took to Twitter like Eve to the apple (thanks Satan) and began confessing their utter disgust for Nike's new Satanic offerings. Of course, what they did not realize is that Nike had nothing to do with the sneakers. In fact, Nike was quite upset by MSCHF's conversation of their sneakers. So upset that they took the fight to Satan by filing a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The lawsuit, which was filed on March 29, 2021, contained causes of action for trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and common law trademark infringement and dilution. Nike also asked the Court to issue an injunction, preventing the further sale of the Satan Shoes.
In the 24 page Complaint, attorneys for Nike alleged that MSCHF purchased the sneakers from Nike and then MSCHF artists made their own "creative modifications." Nike argued that it owns the exclusive rights to the Swoosh design and the Nike word mark and that by modifying the sneakers, MSCHF infringed on Nike's trademarks.
Nike also laid out for the Court how MSCHF had, without its permission, deceived consumers into believing the sneakers were actually a Nike-approved product. Nike stated, "MSCHF is deceiving consumers into believing that Nike manufactures or approves of the Satan Shoes, and consumers' belief that the Satan Shoes are genuine Nike products is causing consumers never to want to purchase any Nike products in the future." A number of examples of tweets from unhappy Twitter users were provided, along with images of the Satan Shoes.
On April 1, 2021, a federal court judge granted Nike's request for a Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") to stop MSCHF from fulfilling orders. Prior to the injunction, MSCHF had shipped approximately 200 pairs of the Satanic sneakers.
Shortly after the issuance of the TRO, Nike settled the case with the Defendants. While the settlement details have not been made public, a lawyer representing MSCHF said the parties are "thrilled with the way this case has been resolved." What we do know is that Nike and MSCHF as part of the settlement, MSCHF will buy back any Satan Shoes and its 2019 Jesus Shoes — featuring a gold crucifix charm and holy water in its midsoles — for their original retail prices in order "to remove them from circulation."
Nike issued a statement for consumers who had been victims of the Satanic deception. Nike said,
"If any purchasers were confused, or if they otherwise want to return their shoes, they may do so for a full refund. Purchasers who choose not to return their shoes and later encounter a product issue, defect, or health concern should contact MSCHF, not Nike. The parties are pleased to put this dispute behind them."
There are a few lessons to be learned from this case. Most importantly, just because you are modifying someone's product or design does not protect you from a trademark lawsuit. The act of modifying something is not an exclusion to trademark laws.
The next lesson is that there are severe penalties for infringing on someone's trademark. While the Satan Shoes cases settled, trademark infringement can result in significant damages including, compensatory damages, treble damages (3x's the amount of actual damages), an award of increased profits pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 117, punitive damages, and statutory damages pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 117(c).
The final lesson is simple. No matter how upset you are with this world, never, and I mean never, sell your soles or your soul to Satan.
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