Nike Lawsuit Against John Geiger—Designer Responds Against Infringement Claim

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Sneaker designer John Geiger is seeking a way out of a legal battle he was embroiled in this summer, asking a California court to dismiss a lawsuit from Nike that names him as a defendant.

After initially filing a trademark infringement lawsuit against manufacturer La La Land Production in January 2021 that accuses the company of making bootlegs of popular Nike shoes, Nike amended its lawsuit in August to include Geiger. The Amended Complaint claims that La La Land produces Geiger’s GF-01 sneakerswhich are based on the Nike Air Force 1. Nike claims that the lookalike shoes capitalize on the fame of the iconic Air Force 1 and confuse the market.

On Tuesday, Geiger’s legal team filed a proposed order asking the court for the Central District of California to dismiss Nike’s amended complaint and terminate its lawsuit against the independent designer. In a statement to Complex, Geiger said if he was not removed from the lawsuit, he was ready for a longer legal action.

“I’ve been open about my battles with mental health over the years and Nike really pushed my limits with this sloppy and frivolous lawsuit, but thanks to Sean Davis and my team of attorneys for being over-prepared,” Geiger said. “If it is not rejected, we are ready for a one-year process and [to] fight it in court.

Nike did not respond to a request for comment on its lawsuit against La La Land and Geiger.

Along with the proposed order submitted on Tuesday, a lengthy motion from Geiger’s attorneys argued that its GF-01 shoes do not infringe on Nike trademarks. The rebuttal argues that the GF-01 shoe is unlikely to be mistaken for a Nike product because, despite its similarities to the Air Force 1, it does not feature the Swoosh logo. Geiger’s shoe instead has a “G” logo on the side which his attorneys say bears no resemblance to the Swoosh.

“It is virtually impossible to confuse the two products,” the response read. “As such, the complaint against Geiger must be dismissed in its entirety.”

A comparison between the Air Force 1 and the GF-01. Image via United States District Court

Years before becoming a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Nike, Geiger worked with the brand on creating its signature Zoom Revis 1 shoe for former NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis. At the time the shoe was designed and released in 2012, Geiger was Revis’ business manager, a position that brought him closer to the star cornerback’s sneaker sponsor. Geiger was at one point a friend of the brand, receiving free packages of coveted sneakers and appearing at Nike marketing events.

Geiger eventually made a name for himself in the world of custom sneakers by remixing Air Force 1s. His most popular custom work, the “Misplaced Checks” Air Force 1 it began releasing in 2014, was named not only for the multiple Swoosh (checks) markings it added to the upper, but also in reference to what he said was overdue royalty checks Nike owed him for his work on the Revis shoe. Geiger’s attorneys reference this past work with Nike in documents filed this week, mentioning in a footnote that the company “benefited” from and “still uses to this day” the insights he provided to them. .

Geiger’s attorneys reject Nike’s claim that the GF-01 shoe infringes on the Air Force 1 trade dress, a specific type of mark that relates to the physical appearance of something. They say that Nike regularly modifies the Air Force 1 and sells different versions, weakening its marketing presentation.

“It is the Swoosh, not the generic stitching patterns, that gives strength to the Air Force 1 brand,” write Geiger’s attorneys.

The response goes on to cite other brands – Walmart, A Bathing Ape and Yums among them – that have made Air Force 1-esque shoes, saying that because Nike has failed to control similar copies, the distinctiveness around the model’s commercial dress has been erased.

Claiming that his shoe does not infringe on Nike’s, Geiger’s attorneys break down the differences between the GF-01 and the Air Force 1 in the motion. They list the lower toe box, higher heel, curvature higher collar and a completely different outsole as elements. which differentiate the GF-01 from the Air Force 1. They also say that because Geiger’s shoe is a “luxury item”, it would not usually be placed next to actual Air Force 1s in stores.

A comparison of the Geiger GF-01 and the Nike Air Force 1 breaking down the differences between the two shoes
A breakdown of the differences between the shoes. Image via United States District Court

Geiger’s attorneys argue he has no place in Nike’s lawsuit against La La Land because it’s primarily about the Swoosh and the Dunk, two things he avoided in his product. Nike’s initial litigation against La La Land focused on its role in producing Warren Lotas’ controversial Nike SB Dunk lookalikes which Nike also sued in 2020.

Geiger’s lawyers say the shoes he offers for sale are made in Indonesia and not by La La Land. Their response states that “La La Land simply created a GF-01 prototype based on the design provided by Geiger”.

According to his attorneys, Geiger shoes are unlikely to confuse the market because the people who buy them are educated sneakerheads who take “great care” with their purchases. There is little chance, they say, that this crowd is confused about the origin of the shoes and no proof that they are legitimately duped into thinking that Geiger’s GF-01s are produced by Nike.

Near the end, Geiger’s attorneys’ response to Nike’s amended complaint reiterates that the original lawsuit had little to do with their client. This suggests that Nike’s real motive in implicating Geiger in the lawsuit is to “force [him] to suffer serious damage to his reputation because of his involvement in a case of selling “fake” Nikes. »

The designer spoke about how the lawsuit has already affected his business, use social media to comment on litigation.

“You can remove endorsement deals, sever my brand partnerships and end my relationships,” Geiger wrote on Twitter last week. “I will overcome all of this before me.”

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