Nike Inc.’s “Sport Changes Everything” ad campaign was halted by a North Carolina federal court based on likely confusion with Fleet Feet Inc.’s “Sports Change Everything” and “Running Changes Everything” trademarks.
As reported, Fleet Feet in September has filed a lawsuit against Nike over the use of the trademarks following Nike’s July the Major League Baseball All-Star Game that used the “Sports Changes Everything” phrase.
Fleet Feet’s suit charged that in August, Nike’s website featured “Running Changes Everything” phrase. When Fleet Feet complained, Nike swapped “running” with “sport,” the suit added. Fleet Feet claimed to have been using the marks since 2012.
Nike claims to have spent $16 million on its “Sport Changes Everything” ad campaign that encouraged youth sports participation.
In a decision issued in federal court in North Carolina, U. S. District Judge Catherine Eagles awarded Fleet Feet a preliminary injunction on the basis that it has shown that it is likely to succeed on its trademark claims. The judge wrote, “Fleet Feet’s distinctive ‘Change Everything’ and ‘Running Changes Everything’ marks have relatively low commercial strength, Fleet Feet’s substantial advertising expenditures are a drop in the bucket compared to Nike’s spending, and Nike’s advertising campaign using the ‘Sport Changes Everything’ phrase is likely to swamp Fleet Feet’s marks in the market and to cause consumers to link Fleet Feet’s marks with Nike.”
According to https://www.thefashionlaw.com, the judge noted that “Nike had the option to perform a trademark search in advance—or, if it did one, to respond differently—to ensure its planned campaign would appropriately respect other companies’ marks and would not be subject to court action.”
While Nike argued that “hundreds if not thousands of hours of work and many millions of dollars would be wasted” if an injunction was awarded, the judge determined that “much of the [Nike] advertising the Court has seen can be modified to delete the infringing use and still be used.”
Nike was prohibited from using the “Sports Change Everything” and “Running Changes Everything” trademarks.
Nike reportedly filed a notice of appeal, alerting the court that intends to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.