Keds Hit With Trademark Infringement Suit Over Use of ‘Champion’ Name Overseas

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Champion owner Hanes Brands Inc. is taking Keds LLC to court over the “Champion” trademark.

In a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, Hanes claims that the Champion brand has shared the “Champion” trademark with Keds in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada under a decades-old licensing agreement. Outside of those markets, the companies were to seek their own trademarks under the terms of the agreement. Hanes adds that the two parties agreed to an amendment allowing for a renegotiation of the deal in 2018, after Keds began marketing its Champion shoes in countries where Hanes had trademark priority. Hanes now contends that Keds has not lived up to the terms of the amendment.

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“Keds has failed to engage in the promised renegotiation of the license agreement,” Hanes wrote in court documents. “Indeed, Keds has flatly refused to renegotiate, all the while continuing its improper ‘historic uses’ of the Champion trademark around the world and engaging in additional, unauthorized uses of that mark.”

According to Hanes, which has owned Champion since 2006, Champion and Keds first reached a licensing agreement in 1987, coinciding with Champion’s decision to add sneakers to its line. Under the terms of the initial deal, Keds was allowed to market “casual street and play time shoes” in the U.S., Canada and Mexico using the Champion trademark, while Champion had permission to use the mark on athletic shoes.

Introduced more than 100 years ago and marketed as the first sneaker ever made for woman, the Keds Champion is a low-cut canvas sneaker. Keds has partnered with brands such as Kate Spade New York and Rifle Paper Co. to offer an update on the classic silhouette. Meanwhile, Champion, which turned 100 last year, “exploded” in popularity in the ’80s and ’90s, according to the suit, when it landed a deal as the official uniform purveyor for the NBA and was worn by influential celebrities, such as R&B trio TLC.

Hanes is seeking causes of action for trademark infringement/dilution, breach of contract, unfair competition and false association, unfair and deceptive trade practices and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

A representative from Keds did not immediately reply to FN’s request for comment.

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