A federal judge has stepped in to stop Lil Nas X’s limited edition satanic-themed Air Max 97 shoes from being sold. Or at least, to recall whatever has not already been shipped, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Earlier this week, after Lil Nas X introduced a shoe featuring a bronze pentagram, an inverted cross and a drop of actual human blood, Nike filed a trademark lawsuit against MSCHF Product Studio, the New York-based design company the rapper partnered with to launch the shoes. Nike followed that up with a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. In its suit, the shoe giant claims that the Satanic association “will dilute its famous marks.”
MSCHF’s attorneys addressed a letter to the judge late yesterday, arguing that these 666 pairs of shoes are “not typical sneakers, but rather individually-numbered works of art that were sold to collectors for $1,018 each.” MSCHF argues that just like their 2019 release of limited edition “Jesus Shoes” — also made from Nike Air Max 97 sneakers featuring a steel crucifix and “holy water” sourced from the Jordan River — the “Satan Shoe” will be displayed in art collections, perhaps in museums. Per The Hollywood Reporter, court papers state that Nike has left open the possibility of amending its complaint to include a claim over the “Jesus Shoes” too.
At a hearing this morning, Nike’s lawyers stressed that it had “submitted evidence that even sophisticated sneakerheads were confused,” adding that it has also shown that their consumers are boycotting Nike because it thinks that Nike is associated with the shoe. “We have submitted numerous evidence that some consumers are saying they will never buy Nike shoes ever again,” their attorney Kyle Schneider said.
Judge Komitee asked MSCHF why the modified shoes are legal, to which MSCHF’s attorneys pointed to the “Rogers test” among other defenses. The Rogers test directs judges to examine whether the use of a trademark has artistic relevance in works of creative expression. If that’s the case, it shall determine whether the work is explicitly misleading. Schneider told the court, “there’s no statements that Nike is affiliated.” MSCHF confirmed on March 29 that they did not have involvement from Nike in “any capacity” in creating the shoes.
As for the judge’s order to halt the shoe sales, MSCHF says that all but one of the shoes have already gone out. Komitee said, “there’s no basis for a recall. They are not doing this for money. It’s about the message.”
Nike responded by saying that MSCHF is trying to build a brand with the shoes being sold on the secondary market and that celebrities like Miley Cyrus have gotten involved. Apparently, Nike also suspects that some of the shoes may have been shipped after the lawsuit was filed. At the conclusion of the hearing, Komitee says that Nike has shown a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of its trademark claims.