New Balance v. Karl Lagerfeld

New Balance sells popular sneakers with a large “N” as part of the sneaker “saddle” design.  Karl Lagerfeld introduced a sneaker design with a large “K” in a similar location on its footwear.  New Balance alleges his sneaker design dilutes its brand and is essentially a counterfeit type product, a practice they alleged Lagerfeld routinely engaged in with its competitors.

New Balance has become a fashionable accessory in the past 30 years, often being worn by high profile celebrities.  Thus, New Balance concludes consumer confusion or trademark dilution is inevitable.

This case highlights how design patent and trade dress protection are critical assets to footwear manufacturers.  Do you have a product design that creates such consumer demand you should protect it?