Wants to Protect Sneaker Design?

Dear Rich: I wanted to know if you can copyright a sneaker design. I have a few designs that I would like to protect, and is it legal to use the style of Converse Sneaker but with your own designs sort of like what Ed Hardy did with their designs? If you're talking about a two-dimensional design printed on a sneaker -- for example, somebody screens a photograph or artistic design on the fabric of the shoe -- you can protect the artwork under copyright law. To fortify your claim, you could register it with the Copyright Office and chase anyone who infringes it, whether it's reprinted on sneakers, sheets, or bed pans. By the way, we believe Converse licensed the images from Ed Hardy. Anyone who reproduces the Converse style (such that it imitates or conjures up the Converse brand) without permission is likely to hear from Nike (the owners of the Converse brand).
When copyright isn't enough ...  Copyright canot protect useful objects, so if by "design," you're talking about the design of the sneaker, itself -- toe patterns, side stripes, stitching, tips, number and placement of ringlets, appearance of the tongue, color of the laces, etc. --  then you want to consider the protection afforded by design patents. That's the approach taken by shoe makers such as Nike, Reebok,  AVIA, Asics, LA Gear, Rockport, Sketchers, Wolverine, Keds, Louis Vuitton, Timberland, Berluti, and Kangaroos.


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