Converse vs Walmart: the Copyright Infringement in the Fashion Industry

In 2014, Converse sued over 30 companies for copying their well-known Chuck Taylor sneakers. Many companies chose to settle, while Wal-mart filed a complaint claiming those traits are aesthetical thus are not protected by the trademark law. The result of ITC’s investigation is that only diamond-patterned outsole is counted as a trademark, which means other companies are free to use any other features of Chuck Taylor sneakers.

The debate of whether fashion designs should be protected exists for a long time. Copying enables a lot of similar models entering the market, which drives down the price of the good. Costumers then have a variety of choices. The piracy paradox suggests that copying can increase the demand for a design and make the appeal more popular. And fashion essentially is about trends. If every brand has distinctive designs, then the trends will never form.

However, copying essentially hurts designers’ interests. Firms gain controls over the price through product differentiation. Although many features of Chuck Taylor sneakers are not original, Converse spent a lot of time and money branding this model. The image of Chuck Taylor sneakers is tightly associated with Converse. This model sets their product apart from the rest of the market. But after the battle, other companies can change the diamond-patterned outsole and sell similar products. Converse, again, lost a lot of control over the price.

As a result of the battle between Converse and Wal-mart, companies now can slightly change Chuck Taylor sneakers’ design and use for themselves. It is the success of copying in the entire fashion industry.

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