This week, Nike was embroiled in a legal dispute with the controversy stirring design agency MSCHF for its “Satan” shoe collab with Lil Nas X. If you missed it— Nike filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn-based brand because its blood-filled sneakers look like Air Max 97s, and cited trademark infringement and dilution, false designation of origin, and unfair competition.
The above is far from the first time Nike has chased a smaller brand over its intellectual property — Warren Lotas felt similar wrath over bootleg Dunks at the end of last year. It’s all part of Nike’s ongoing war on fakes that, while understandable from a capitalist perspective, has the potential to stifle creativity. Or, as Jeff Staples said on an episode of Sneaker Talk in December, “I’m always a fan of DIY bootleg culture. I just love it. That’s how Staple started. To me, that’s where true creativity happens. I can see the perspective on both sides, but I will say that brands have always pushed the culture forward and it’s always been uncomfortable for certain parties.”
Part of the discomfort here is that Nike’s attack and destroy approach is massively hypocritical — as the USPS pointed out in a statement posted to its website earlier this week. The statement pertains to a Nike AF1 teased at the beginning of this month that appears to take inspiration from the USPS’ Priority Mail shopping boxes. The color palette is white, red, and blue, and there’s a USPS-esque label on the heel, as you can see in the image up top.
The statement reads: “The Postal Service, which receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations, protects its intellectual property. Officially licensed products sold in the marketplace expand the affinity for the Postal Service brand and provide incremental revenue through royalties that directly support it. Sales of unauthorized and unlicensed products deny support to the hardworking women and men of the Postal Service.”
“This is an unfortunate situation where a large brand such as Nike, which aggressively protects its own intellectual property, has chosen to leverage another brand for its own gain. The Postal Service is disappointed in Nike’s lack of response to repeated attempts to come to a solution. The Postal Service will take whatever actions it deems necessary to protect its valuable IP rights.”
According to Statista, Nike’s 2020 global net income amounted to about $2.54 billion — a year in which the USPS had to launch its own merch line in order to keep it afloat after Trump opposed additional funding head of the elections. It makes sense that when dealing such a massive gap in wealth and power, Nike feels like it can squish small brands ripping its stuff while simultaneously doing whatever it wants. That is, after all, basically how the Global North operates. Also:
If you paid $120 for a pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes, you paid more to Nike than it paid in federal income taxes over the past 3 years, while it made $4.1 billion in profits and Nike’s founder, Phil Knight, became over $23 billion richer. Yes. We must #TaxTheRich.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 2, 2021
You can still buy USPS merch btw — it just dropped an Earth Day tee and there are few great long sleeves too. And if it’s going to be taking “whatever actions it deems necessary” against Nike, it’ll need all the monetary support it can get. Shop here.