Airwair International Ltd., the creators of the esteemed Dr Martens shoes, has recently initiated a lawsuit in federal court against Yoox-Net-A-Porter Group, accusing them of trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition due to their purported imitation designs. This is not the first time Airwair has pursued legal action against competitors for allegedly copying their iconic lace-up boots. They are now seeking an injunction in this latest case. The British brand, renowned for producing reliable footwear with distinctive flair, is well-acquainted with defending its trademarks and removing products from shelves if necessary – a crucial aspect of protecting both innovation and consumer rights, considering the enduring appreciation for Dr Martens since their inception in 1960.
In 2017, Airwair International initiated legal proceedings against shoe manufacturer Steve Madden, alleging trademark infringement. They contended that the company had unlawfully duplicated Dr Martens’ two-tone grooved sole edge, DMS undersole, and heel loop designs without authorisation. This was not their maiden encounter with such issues, as a similar lawsuit aimed at US-based Chinese Laundry had been filed in 2013 due to questionable activities surrounding their trademarks. In a separate instance last year, Italian footwear brand Aquazzura Italia SRL accused Ivanka Trump’s eponymous fashion label of replicating one of its original designs at a significantly lower price point – violating copyright laws and causing confusion among customers who believed they were purchasing from the legitimate source, only to receive counterfeit merchandise. Despite affecting numerous industries across various product categories, discerning the fine line between inspiration and duplication remains challenging, making identifying infringements increasingly difficult over time.
In July, due to production concerns, Aldi withdrew a $69 wooden stool from its stores. However, the decision closely followed a petition submitted by The Design Institute of Australia, asserting that the item was an exact replica of Australian designer Mark Tuckey’s Egg Cup Stool and calling for its removal. Jo-Ann Kellock, Chief Executive Officer at DIA, acknowledged that Australia’s existing intellectual property lawsare insufficient to address this issue involving copies, leading her to propose joining The Hague Agreement as recommended by IPAustralia. This would enable local designers to obtain protection against replicas across numerous countries or regions without confronting extensive formalities. She stated, “IPAustralia is considering if Australia should join The Hague Agreement, which would afford Australian designers protection against replicas in multiple countries or regions with minimal formalities.”