After years of looking the other way from independent designers, Nike filed suit against Warren Lotas last October over his Dunk lookalikes. The sneaker giant reached a favorable settlement before the year was over, and ever since the company has shown that it will no longer stand for anything that comes close to encroaching on its intellectual property.
As John Geiger has now become the most recent target, we’re taking a look back on the recent timeline to show how the company has broadened its scope to ward off copycats.
Nike filed suit against Lotas last October after he’d opened up pre-orders for an unofficial “Pigeon” Dunk remake made in collaboration with Jeff Staple. That sneaker was just one of many Lotas sneakers that were near-precise remakes of iconic Dunk variants, the lone discernible difference being a Jason Voorhees mask in place of the Swoosh.
As the trial progressed, Lotas attempted to satisfy Nike by retooling his uppers to make them more distinctly his own. But the company still took issue with his use of a sole design that it felt encroached on its own. Lotas came to an agreement out of court prior to the end of the year, with terms specifying that he could no longer sell any sneakers that made use of Nike’s trademarks or trade dress again.
Having prevailed in its case against Lotas, Nike then went on to target his manufacturer in January as it promised to continue its enforcement “up the supply chain.” While the case against La La Land is still ongoing, a development much later would bring another designer into Nike’s crosshairs.
Lil Nas X and the Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF brought scrutiny to Nike over unsanctioned, custom Air Max 97s injected with real human blood. Obtuse Christian and conservative commentators cried for Nike boycotts despite the company not being involved, and in turn Nike filed suit against MSCHF because of the confusion.
Once again, Nike secured an out-of-court settlement. Because all pairs of the “Satan Shoes” sold had already been sent out to customers, MSCHF agreed to buy back any sneakers provided anyone was interested. The recall also applied to “Jesus Shoes” released years earlier with holy water injected instead of blood, while the planned giveaway for the “666” edition of the devilish sneakers was cancelled.
By creating Dunks, Air Force 1s, and Air Jordan 1s bearing a middle finger instead of a Swoosh, former Awake NY designer Jon Lopez launched ineverheardofyou as a statement against the corporatization of streetwear and sneakers. The run of bootlegs was short-lived, however, and Lopez quietly stopped releasing his kicks this summer after receiving a cease-and-desist from Nike.
Drip Creationz may just be the largest and most flagrant Nike copycat there is. The brand has more than 1 million followers on Instagram and primarily makes “customs” with butterflies and flowers catered to basic white girls.
Nike, however, says the base sneakers aren’t even real despite the brand’s claims — citing “crooked proportions, messy stitching, [and] cheap details.” The lawsuit against Drip Creationz was filed in July and is still ongoing, but Nike’s initial filing acknowledged potential blowback for its recent actions by saying “it has no desire to limit the individual expression of creatives and artisans, many of whom are some of Nike’s biggest fans.”
The GF-01 is John Geiger’s admitted homage to the Air Force 1, made with more premium materials and a cursive “g” logo in place of the Swoosh. Just last year, he told Input he thought it would be “impossible” for Nike to sue — but the company did just that in August when it added Geiger as a defendant in the La La Land case.
With his case just beginning, Geiger may put up the biggest fight against Nike yet. He’s retained the services of Kenneth Anand, former general counsel to Yeezy Apparel and co-creator Sneaker Law, and issued a strongly worded statement in defense of his work. “I'm preparing to fight this battle for all creators and underdogs fighting the same uphill battle as me,” Geiger said while also promising to be vocal and open as the case proceeds.