A federal judge earlier this month sided with Fleet Feet, awarding a preliminary injunction barring Nike from using the phrases “Change Everything” and “Sport Changes Everything.”
“Because Fleet Feet has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its trademark infringement claims… Fleet Feet’s [preliminary injunction] motion will be granted,” read to a memorandum signed by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles. According to Eagles, Fleet Feet, through court filings, has already shown a “strong case” that Nike is infringing on its slogans. Eagles noted in her opinion that Fleet Feet has used the marks for several years in its stores and in the races it sponsors.
And, according to a report in the Triangle Business Journal, she calls the risk of consumer confusion “substantial, as Nike is spending millions of dollars ($16 million so far, according to court documents) to intensely promote the ‘Sport Changes Everything’ campaign.”
In late summer Fleet Feet had filed a lawsuit against Nike over Nike’s advertising usage of phrases such as “Change Everything” and “Running Changes Everything.”
According to the lawsuit, Fleet Feet had trademarked the two phrases and spent substantial resources making those slogans the cornerstones for its brand.
“Yet despite that knowledge, Nike in July 2019 launched a national advertising campaign based on the marks SPORT CHANGES EVERYTHING and RUNNING CHANGES EVERYTHING. The first of these Nike marks bears a confusing resemblance to Fleet Feet’s marks, and the second is identical to Fleet Feet’s mark,” wrote Fleet Feet in court papers. The complaint said Nike brand managers have “historically” previewed advertising campaigns with Fleet Feet, but Nike provided no advance notice with the MLB campaign.
Court filings show Fleet Feet has spent about $1.9 million on advertising and marketing its brand since Sept. 14. That doesn’t include the $800,000 its company-owned locations have spent, nor does it include the nearly $1.4 million spent on digital media advertising by its online store.
During the same time period, according to filings, Fleet Feet’s franchisees and affiliates earned more than $940 million in revenue, resulting in more than $25 million in royalties and license fees paid to Fleet Feet.
Joey Pointer, president and CEO of Fleet Feet, said in a statement following the ruling: "The Court’s orders on our preliminary injunction motion speak for themselves, so we won’t comment further on those. But I will say that the choice to file a lawsuit against a company like Nike is one that no one wants to make — especially when we’ve done business together for more than 40 years. We filed our lawsuit because we had to protect our trademarks, for our company and for our franchisees. That said, Fleet Feet values our relationship with Nike and we hope that for the long term we can continue to work together to benefit both of our brands."
Nike, which filed a counterclaim in October against Fleet Feet, has denied wrongdoing in previous court filings. The company filed an appeal of the order following the court’s initial ruling.
Nike had intended to use the advertising campaign through next year’s Super Bowl. But without a lift of the injunction, Nike can no longer use the marks and the status of the ad program is in question.