Athleticwear manufacturer New Balance filed an infringement complaint last month against Golden Goose, alleging “the deliberate attempt” by the cult streetwear brand “to foster a perceived association between its products and New Balance in the minds of consumers,” according to court documents.
The common law trade dress complaint, filed in United States District Court District of Massachusetts, pertains specifically to Golden Goose’s “Dad-Star” shoe, released in 2020, which the New Balance suit alleges uses a design that looks “confusingly similar” to The New Balance 990 launched in 1982.
Both shoes feature a white logo and soles with gray uppers, and the filing further alleges that the specific shade of gray employed by Golden Goose for its design is too close to the New Balance signature hue.
“The color grey is so associated with the brand that New Balance has a dedicated ‘Grey Shop’ on its website … and, since 2018, it has globally marketed an event called ‘Grey Day,’ which features pop-up shops, art, events, and curated collections of special footwear and apparel products in grey,” the filing stated.
In addition to the design, New Balance is challenging the shoe based on its name.
“Originally a pejorative term, a ‘dad shoe’ describes sneakers with a chunky appearance and traditionally worn by (presumptively) uncool fathers,” the filing stated. “The ‘dad shoe’ style eventually became popular, due in large part to its adoption by fashion models and celebrities. New Balance is well-known as the “dad shoe” brand and fosters an association with the term.” The filing added, “within the New Balance model family, the 990 is known to consumers as the “original” dad shoe.”
“New Balance Athletics, Inc. is recognized as one of the top athletic brands in the world and we go to great lengths to protect our intellectual property,” a spokesperson for New Balance told Fashion Dive in an email. “While New Balance respects industry competition, Golden Goose’s Dad-Star shoe infringes New Balance’s intellectual property rights in the iconic 990 shoe design, one of our most popular and best-selling models. As a result of this infringement by Golden Goose, New Balance has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts to protect the distinctive trade dress of our 990 shoe.”
Golden Goose has been in hot water before. The Italian brand, founded in 2000 and acquired by Permira in 2020, has been accused on social media of “glorifying poverty” in the past, due to its luxury-priced distressed shoes, some of which have featured taped-up toes and battered laces, and which can sell for upwards of $500. Golden Goose has itself filed trademark suits against competitors for infringing on its designs. The brand did not respond to a request for comment in advance of press time.
New Balance has also been in court recently. A 2021 complaint filed in the same court as the Golden Goose complaint alleged that although its products bear the “Made in USA” tagline, the label is misleading. That complaint, which currently includes over 100 members, is currently pending after a judge ruled in Dec. 2022 not to dismiss the complaint.
The popularity of heritage and vintage sneaker designs may mean that more companies will seek to capitalize on the consumer desire for old-school styles. For example, Designer Brands recently launched a line of Le Tigre sneakers, with designs inspired by New York City during the summer of 1977. Meanwhile, Adidas, Converse and New Balance also have popular retro sneaker designs out this year.