Adidas steps on the toes of Art Basel in sneaker lawsuit

Footwear company Adidas is alleged to have tread all over Art Basel’s good name by creating an unauthorised Art Basel-themed sneaker according to a lawsuit filed by the international art fair on May 30 in Florida.

MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd, which owns the modern and contemporary art fair has accused Adidas of breaching copyright by producing a line of sneakers emblazoned with an “Art Basel” label without its permission. It is suing the footwear brand for injunctive relief and damages for copyright infringement, false association, deceptive and unfair trade practice, unjust enrichment and dilution of its trademark. MCH also wants all remaining Art Basel sneakers to be destroyed.

In its complaint, MCH contends that Adidas have capitalised on the appeal of the lucrative Art Basel brand, which it claims has “garnered significant and widespread recognition” and “extremely valuable goodwill”. It also stated that the art fair is estimated to have brought together over US$3 billion (£2 billion) worth of art at its 2016 Miami edition.

While not produced for sale, the infringing shoes were distributed at Adidas promotional events in Miami and Miami Beach during the most recent Art Basel Miami fair in December 2016. This included a choreographed dance event on 30 November during which at least 500 pairs of the sneakers were said to have been given away for free to the public.

Following the close of Art Basel Miami, the sneakers have continued to appear for sale on eBay and YouTube for as much as US$250 a pair (£194). The shoes have also turned up on various sneaker enthusiast websites.

A spokeswoman for Adidas declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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