Vans take legal action against Primark over trainer design

American footwear brand Vans has brought legal action against Primark for allegedly imitating the design of two of its classic trainers.

Vans claims that Primark has been selling ‘intentional copies’ of their trainer designs since 2017 and had thought the issue had been resolved after requesting them to stop last January.

However, Vans later discovered that Primark were continuing to sell the shoes in the United States and have now taken legal action that alleges trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising.

It was alleged that Primark has reproduced identical versions of the Vans Old Skool sneaker and the Vans Sk8-Hi sneaker. Both shoes feature the waffle-patterned bottom and “side stripe”, which are distinct characteristics of the Vans brand.

Vans claim that customers on social media have been referring to Primark’s shoes as ‘fake Vans’.

Vans stated in court documents that: “The Side Stripe Trademark’s prominent placement and often-contrasted colour make Vans’ shoes immediately recognisable to consumers even at far-off distances”.

They also referred to Primark’s shoes as ‘calculated and intentional knock-offs of Vans’ footwear products’ and ‘designed to confuse the purchasing public.’

“Primark has even gone so far as to name its infringing products the ‘Skater low tops’ and ‘Skater high tops’ in a blatant attempt to suggest a connection with Vans’ products that bear the Vans trademarks and trade dress, including the Vans’ Old Skool Shoe and Sk8-Hi Shoe”.

Primark denies the allegations and plans to defend against the claim by Vans.

Asserting the originality of a product and the characteristics that make it distinct can be a very difficult process, however, ensuring you have taken steps to register these aspects at an early stage can greatly assist you in protecting your business against imitators. If you would like to speak to someone about how you can protect your business and products, please get in touch with one of Mackrell Turner Garrett’s experienced Intellectual Property team.

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Maung Aye
Maung is a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department. He joined Mackrell Turner Garrett following corporate law positions in London and in a leading regional firm in Essex. Maung read European Legal Studies at Lancaster University and the Università degli Studi di Trento and is a fluent Italian speaker.