Once designated the ultimate go-to shoe for middle-aged dads in the US, the New Balance “dad shoe” is now a global phenomenon which has helped catapult New Balance in to a $5 billion business1. But does New Balance own getup in the dad shoe, and can it protect them against copycats? An ongoing US case against luxury brand Golden Goose challenges this notion.
In August, New Balance sued Italian luxury footwear brand Golden Goose Deluxe Brand (GGDB) for trade mark infringement in the US. GGDB, known for its signature sneakers featuring a star logo on the side and a “distressed” aesthetic, has recently filed a motion to dismiss the claim.
This case concerns alleged infringement of numerous versions of New Balance’s “dad shoe” by GGDB’s Dad-Star sneakers. True to the dad shoe, the Dad-Star features the classic oversized chunky soles, along with GGDB’s signature distressed outer and star motif.
New Balance alleges that the Dad-Star infringes its unregistered rights in its trade dress for the dad shoe (formally known as the 990 model, v1 to v6). This includes features which are “usually” present amongst the versions, such as contrasting tones of a monochrome colour - typically (as in this case) grey; a mesh-and-suede upper overlay combination; different colourways on each half of the sole; and a contrasting outsole colour. Clearly, GGDB’s shoe name also points towards the “dad shoe” appeal. Pushing back on this, GGDB asserts that New Balance has (amongst other things) failed to identify any particular design in the 990, given the varying redesigns (depicted below).
It remains to be seen whether the Court will determine whether New Balance does in fact have unregistered trade mark rights in the dad shoe, but this case may be of interest to fashion and footwear brand owners.