Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but sometimes it’s deemed illegal. Skechers, who has made the jump to second largest US footwear company behind Nike, has been ordered by a federal judge to stop producing three different shoes that bare striking resemblances to that of adidas — the marquee model being the Onix which is incredibly similar to the Stan Smith.
Oregon Live reports that Oregon’s U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez was presented the Onix and Stan Smith only a few feet away from him in court and could not tell the difference, a factor that led to his final decision.
“Although Skechers points out minor differences between its Onix shoe and the Stan Smith — that the Onix has five, not three, rows of perforations which extend in a different direction, and that its colored heel patch is a slightly darker shade of green — the unmistakable overall impression is two nearly identical shoes,” Hernandez wrote. “Given the striking similarity between the shoes, there is but one inference to draw: that Skechers knowingly adopted a mark very similar to the Stan Smith to draw off of the success of Adidas’s iconic shoe.”
In response to the ruling, Skechers President Michael Greenberg issued a statement that although the company was disappointed by the ruling it would not strongly disrupt their business as the injunction involved “only three minor and commercially insignificant Skechers styles that have already been discontinued.” Following up, Greenberg stated, “While this is a non-issue from a commercial standpoint, we are disappointed in the ruling and fully intend to appeal it in order to ensure that our footwear designers retain the freedom to use common design elements that have long been in the public domain.”
While the Skechers Onix is a blatant bite on the adidas Stan Smith, it also says a lot of about the bigger business of sneakers. The fact that Skechers has moved to #2 in the US makes selling a takedown on a classic hurt all the more. As pointed out in our Follow the Leader feature, we live in an era where high end fashion houses also bite sportswear staples. Clearly, there’s much more units moved in a lower priced Skechers shoe than that of a designer do-over (though fashion houses still get sued on occasion). One could argue that a high-end appropriation raises the perceived value of a sportswear staple, while a take-down from a lesser brand diminishes the value. Regardless, a copy is a copy and it undermines design and marketing dollars at some level. No idea is original, but you still gotta respect creativity and innovation. Congrats to adidas.