Converse, now owned by Nike, markets a very distinctive sports shoe called the Chuck Taylor. The rubber-toed design is an all-American classic, popular year in and year out since it was introduced for basketball players nearly 100 years ago. It takes its name from a basketball star, Chuck Taylor, who joined Converse in the 1920s.
Now Converse is suing 31 companies, saying their shoes have too much of the Chuck Taylor look--and therefore violate intellectual property laws.
Among the firms being sued are Walmart, Kmart, Skechers and Ralph Lauren.
This isn't Converse's first attempt to assert its trademark rights. The company has served nearly 200 cease-and-desist notices in the past few years, telling marketers to stop making lookalike shoes that mimic Chuck Taylor's design. Now it's looking to the court system to enforce its trademark rights.
The marketing point? Success invites imitation. Marketers have to watch for imitators and be sure their brands and trademarks are protected. Otherwise, they may wind up marketing something that devolves into a generic product or category description. Zipper was once a brand. No longer. Converse wants to be sure that Chucks don't lose their brand protection. Just as important, it wants consumers to be reassured that when they buy a pair of shoes looking like the Chuck Taylor classic, it is a Chuck Taylor by Converse.