U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules for Nike, Says Competitor's Trademark Challenge Is Moot


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled for Nike in its attempt to head off a competitor’s challenge to a trademark for a Nike shoe line known as Air Force 1s.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the unanimous opinion (PDF) holding Nike’s promise not to pursue an infringement claim against Already LLC mooted Already’s trademark challenge.

“Already’s arguments boil down to a basic policy objection that dismissing this case allows Nike to bully small innovators lawfully operating in the public domain,” Roberts wrote. “This concern cannot compel us to adopt Already’s broad theory of standing.”

Nike initiated the dispute when it sued Already in 2009, claiming the competitor’s Soulja Boys and Sugars shoe lines infringed Nike’s trademark on Air Force 1s. Already counterclaimed, alleging Nike’s trademark was invalid.

Roberts said Nike’s covenant not to pursue an infringement claim was broad enough to moot the counterclaim. Nike had asserted Already was unlikely to manufacture any shoe in the future that would not be protected by the covenant. Roberts agreed with that assessment.

“If such a shoe exists,” he wrote, “the parties have not pointed to it, there is no evidence that Already has dreamt of it, and we cannot conceive of it. It sits, as far as we can tell, on a shelf between Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Perseus’ winged sandals.”

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