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Shoemaker's broad trademark offensive shot down by ITC

Although many people might reasonably believe that the International Trade Commission is a global entity (possibly an arm of the United Nations or a Europe-based overseer and arbiter of international trade concerns and disputes, respectively), that is actually not the case.

In fact, the ITC is an arm of the United States government, described on its own website as being "an independent, quasi-judicial federal agency with broad investigative responsibilities on matters of trade."

One of many duties it is tasked with is to investigate complaints alleging imported products that infringe American intellectual property holders' rights, and to rule upon those matters.

That mandate centrally came to light recently in a case involving athletic footwear. Readers of our blog might find the subject matter wholly unsurprising, given the huge universe of competing products in the global shoe marketplace. Understandably, shoe manufacturers and retailers are quick to act when they perceive third-party wrongdoing, and they frequently turn to the ITC for hoped-for relief.

Unfortunately for Converse, that relief was not forthcoming. The company has been notably litigious lately, with its case before the ITC alleging design and trademark infringement of one of its popular shoe models by more than 30 other industry actors, including Skechers, Fila and Ralph Lauren.

Apparently, Converse was unduly stretching in the view of the ITC, claiming rights that would have unfairly straitjacketed the product lines of its many competitors. As noted in one media report on the case, "numerous companies … have used [a] similar design for decades."

The shoemaker's claim was rejected.

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