Colorado residents who watched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July may have seen Nike commercials that featured the tagline ‘Sport Changes Everything.” The Portland-based athletic apparel maker invested $16 million in the campaign hoping that it would associate the brand with youth sports, but future ads were put on hold on Dec. 2 when a U.S. district court judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the company from using the ‘Sport Changes Everything” slogan.
The judge issued the injunction because she determined that a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by a North Carolina-based sports shoe retailer was likely to succeed. Fleet Feet, Inc. filed a 23-page complaint just weeks after the All-Star Game aired that claimed Nike was infringing on its trademarks. The company has trademarks that protect the terms ‘Running Changes Everything” and ‘Change Everything.” Fleet Feet says that it has been using the slogans in its advertising since 2012.
Fleet Feet stocks Nike products and claims that the sportswear giant was well aware of its trademarks. The company says that it took legal action only after Nike ignored calls to cease and desist. However, Nike did respond to these calls by modifying its original tagline from ‘Running Changes Everything” to ‘Sport Changes Everything” according to Fleet Feet. Nike had planned to use the campaign extensively during the National Football League playoffs. The company has announced that it plans to file an appeal.
This case reveals how even major companies can find themselves embroiled in complex and expensive legal disputes over branding elements like slogans and logos. Attorneys with experience in this area may seek to avoid intellectual property litigation by performing trademark searches before money is invested in marketing materials and advertising. When trademark holders have voiced concerns about alleged infringement, attorneys might suggest putting campaigns on hold until an amicable agreement is reached.