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K-Swiss sues Puma in defense of eyelet strip shoe design

May 7, 2009 |  2:20 pm

Puma  and K-Swiss are tied up in a growing dispute over shoelace-holding methods that could land the footwear companies in a Los Angeles courtroom. Dolton

K-Swiss, based in Westlake Village, filed a lawsuit against Puma in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last week, asking a judge to rule that K-Swiss' trademarked system of lacing a shoe was valid.

In a March letter to K-Swiss, Puma threatened a suit of its own if K-Swiss' didn't stop selling and marketing the Dolton shoe (pictured at left), which Puma argued copied its trademark "formstrip" design seen on the side of most of its shoes (one of which is pictured below).

The K-Swiss Dolton features an eyelet strip, which runs in a color block down the side and to the sole.

But, the K-Swiss suit contends, the dispute isn't really about trademark infringement; it developed  because Puma executives are angry that two of the company's employees, a shoe designer and a marketing person, left to work at K-Swiss. Puma

"In response to this loss, Puma AG, in bad faith, concocted its plan to assert trademark infringement claims against K-Swiss," the suit said.

The Dolton was introduced in late 2008, the suit said, and the two former Puma employees were hired by K-Swiss after the Dolton was designed.

K-Swiss said it filed the April 30 lawsuit to clear itself of Puma's trademark infringement allegations, and court documents gave examples of shoes designed with similar eyelet strips from Nike, Vans and Adidas.

"K-Swiss’ use of the Eyelet Strip as an integral part of the lacing system for its footwear is a fair use," the suit said.

Puma didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Top photo: K-Swiss Dolton E. Credit: K-Swiss Inc.

Lower photo: Puma Suede. Credit: Puma AG.