Nike, USPS Reach A Licensing Deal For USPS-Inspired Sneakers
from the just-license-it dept
What a wild trademark ride for Nike over the past few weeks. You will recall that Nike found itself on our pages after its trademark dispute with MSCHF over the so-called “Satan Shoes” being pushed by Lil Nas X. What had all the makings of a very interesting case that would have involved questions about resale rights, free speech, and property rights instead ended in a mostly meaningless settlement that saw MSCHF agreeing to offer to buy back shoes that are now wildly famous and valuable and will almost certainly never be bought back. Almost immediately afterwards, interestingly, Nike found itself on the flip side of the trademark coin with the United States Postal Service, after Nike produced an experimental Air Force 1 sneaker that was clearly inspired by the postal service.
Now, while saying that these shoes were clearly inspired by the USPS would be an understatement, here again we have a situation where a trial could cover all sorts of interesting ground. Would the public be confused by any of this? C’mon now. Does Nike’s homage to the USPS somehow diminish the USPOS brand? If anything, I would think the opposite effect would be on the table. When is the last time anyone before Nike considered the postal service cool enough to be honored with a sneaker produced by one of, if not the, most famous athletic apparel and shoe manufacturers on the planet? And, ultimately, what actual harm would be done to the USPS or its trademark rights by Nike’s actions?
Sadly, we’ll never get answers to those questions as Nike has decided to abide by its stance against MSCHF and instead settle the dispute by entering a licensing agreement with the USPS.
The all-white Experimental Nike Air Force 1 footwear are now officially licensed by the USPS, according to a USPS release that was issued by a Nike spokeswoman. The statement also noted, “Any early images of this shoe were not authorized to be released by Nike.”
A spokeswoman for the USPS did not respond immediately for a request for comment about the financial terms of the deal.
So, on the one hand, fine, Nike finally lived up to the same standards it laid out in the MSCHF dispute when it was the complaining party. On the other hand, a settlement like this only perpetuates the permission culture the far too often plagues the realm of intellectual property generally and trademark particularly.
Wouldn’t it have been better for the USPS to simply accept the honor of the homage and get back to the business of delivering mail and spying on all of us?