When it comes to iconic boots, you can’t go past the high-top, Dr. Martens. The boots have graced the feet of countless musicians, activists, punks, and counter culturalists, who are drawn to their tough exterior, comfort, and unique appearance. With such an influential history, it is inevitable that the trademark has numerous cases of infringement.
In November 2020, AirWair, the company of Dr. Martens boots, filed a complaint in California federal court against Chinese company Zoetop Business, owner of online retailer platform SHEIN, which is popular among the young generation.
AirWair alleges that Zoetop boots are “illegally” a copy of their trade dress, which is used in Dr. Martens 1460 boot and other iconic Airwair styles including: “yellow welt stitching; a grooved sole edge; an angled heel; a two-tone sole edge; [a specific] sole pattern; [a specific] cleat pattern; and yellow and black heel loop.”
AirWair claims that over the past 35 years, millions of pairs of shoes and boots with its distinctive trade dress have been sold worldwide. ZoeTop is using its iconic design features without authorization from AirWair. The company believes that there is a chance of consumer confusion with their shoe styles, and they have asked for $2 million per counterfeit mark in damages or issues caused by this unauthorized use of intellectual property rights.
Almost a year later, ZoeTop responded the AirWair’s claim with several defenses such as alleging that the elements like welt stitching, cleats, single or two-tone soles, platform soles, grooved soles, and heel loops are generic, functional, and lack secondary meaning.
In their response, ZoeTop also claimed that many of AirWair’s trademark registrations should not be issued because the descriptions in USPTO registrations are overbroad and exceed what rights they have in those marks (U.S. Registrations 2,437,750; 2,437,751; 5,067,689; and 5,067,692). ZoeTop demanded the court to cancel AirWair’s registrations or to restrict the scope of their rights in those marks, as well as its unregistered trade dress.
If the outcome of the case goes for ZoeTop and AirWair’s trademarks are invalidated, ZoeTop will unhook from a huge losing battle.