Nike sues John Geiger claiming he copied its iconic Air Force 1 sneaker

The Swoosh says Geiger’s GF-01 shoe infringes on its Air Force 1 design, despite different materials and branding.

Nike is continuing its battle against customizers and bootleggers by filing a lawsuit against John Geiger’s John Geiger Co and La La Land Production and Design Inc, claiming that Geiger’s GF-01 sneaker infringes on its Air Force 1 design. In response, Geiger wrote in an Instagram post that he’s “been very clear through two years of manufacturing and selling the GF-01 that it was inspired by Nike, and also made sure that anyone purchasing the shoe is aware that it is a designer shoe crafted with higher materials and quality, along with my trademark and changes to the silhouette.”

In a past interview with Input, Geiger had said he wasn’t concerned about getting sued by Nike, calling a lawsuit “impossible.” According to the designer, his work “changed [the sneaker] way too much,” using an original sole, new materials, and separate logos. As he said in his recent Instagram post, his GF-01 sneaker was a tasteful homage to Nike’s AF1 — not a bootleg copy.

Nike fan to Nike defendant — Still, Nike has stated in its legal complaint — acquired by Complex — that “by marketing and selling shoes using Nike’s registered Air Force 1 trade dress, John Geiger knowingly and intentionally creates confusion in the marketplace and capitalizes on Nike’s reputation and the reputation of its iconic shoes.”

Nike v John Geiger Co

Geiger, a customizer-turned-designer, has worked on Nike models prior to the lawsuit. Although his personalized pairs were not authorized by the Swoosh, Geiger had previously told Input he hoped Nike would contact him for a collaboration, especially after seeing the success of his premium customs: Geiger’s Shoe Surgeon “Misplaced Checks” Air Force 1, which featured 16 overlapping Swoosh logos made from crocodile leather, pony hair, nubuck, and other exotic materials, quickly made him a designer to watch.

Now, Geiger claims that his sneakers have caught Nike’s attention, but not for the reasons he had initially hoped. He mentioned in his recent Instagram post that the company “has been benefiting off the hard work from myself and a lot of creators within the [sneaker] community over the past 10 years. I’ve remained quiet and never spoken publicly because everyone within the sneaker community has spoken for me but now Nike wants to use meritless claims and attack me as an entrepreneur.” It’s worth noting that in 2018, a Travis Scott AF1 featured misplaced Swoosh logos akin to one of Geiger’s designs.

The designer has promised transparency through the legal process, which he already seems to be providing through his social media. Although Nike has been busy snuffing out customizers, Geiger is one of the bigger names it’s chased after — and his openness about the lawsuit may be a stand against Nike’s constant cease and desist letters.

Is Nike creating a monopoly? — La La Land — which is also being sued by Nike because of its production of Geiger’s shoes — has experienced the wrath of the Swoosh before. Just last year, the company was named as a defendant in Nike’s lawsuit against Warren Lotas, who created bootleg SB Dunk sneakers.

Nike v Warren Lotas / La La Land

Although Lotas settled with Nike in December 2020, La La Land is still fighting the sneaker monolith’s charges. The production company recently filed a counterclaim against Nike, stating “Nike’s strategy aims to quash competition and intimidate legitimate businesses … that often lack the resources to defend themselves against such a well-resourced opponent. There is a bullying nature to these actions that chills creativity and lawful competition.”

The Swoosh has gone after — and shut down — plenty of independent sneaker designers, with very few surviving Nike’s legal influence. Still, there are celebrated brands, like BAPE, that produce obvious tributes to Nike’s shoes and have never been hit with a lawsuit in the way that designers like Geiger and Lotas have. The difference may come down to who has the legal power to defeat Nike — and who doesn’t.