Deborah Greaves is featured regarding trademark issues in Nike and Lil Nas X’s ‘Satan Shoes’ dispute

Article 13 April 2021 Experience: Intellectual property

“Nike has succeeded in halting the sale of Brooklyn art collective MSCHF’s ‘Satan Shoes’,” a recent article published by World IP Review begins. The publication features Withers partner Deborah Greaves discussing the latest developments in the case.

The article describes the trademark dispute between Lil Nas X and Nike over his designer sneakers, named “Satan Shoes”, which are based on Nike’s Air Max 97 styled sneakers and use a “swoosh” marking that closely resembles the Nike logo.

In the article, Deborah states, “This is another brilliant example of the tension between trademark law and the freedom of expression guaranteed as a fundamental right under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”

“Arguments concerning freedom of speech and IP rights will be at the forefront of the proceedings in the coming months, breaking down what we can expect from the proceedings in the coming weeks,” noted Deborah.

“Courts have held that whether the use of a mark is artistically relevant is a factual issue, and moreover, that judges should not be put in the position of having to make the decision of how much artistic relevance is sufficient for free speech rights to out-balance the rights of the trademark owner.

“Naturally there are those who are offended by the thought of Satan Shoes and there are others who are amused by the controversy. The First Amendment does not discriminate on the basis of offensiveness. Undoubtedly both parties to this controversy will develop very creative arguments in support of their positions, and perhaps therein will lie the true art of the matter.”

Shortly after the publication of the article, Nike and MSCHF entered into a settlement agreement, and with that, the possibility of reviewing the parties’ First Amendment arguments has closed.

To view the full article, Nike blocks Lil Nas X ‘Satan Shoes’, published on April 6, 2021, please click here.

To view further discussion from Withers attorneys on the matter, click here.