When Warren Lotas introduced the Warren Lotas Dunks, all would have gone well if he didn’t add the infamous Swoosh logo that is officially Nike’s trademark. The man responsible for the Los Angeles street-style brand began this project while he was in college. Soon, he became a highly sought-after designer of punk-inspired streetwear that mostly featured hoodies and sneakers. All this attention riled up Nike ultimately caused Warren Lotas to shut down his e-commerce site fall of 2020, as well as any promotional posts he had going on Instagram regarding his product line. Although Warren Lotas sold products that have nothing to do with the Nike logo, the entire site simply shut down for business. At the time, there was a question of whether or not Warren Lotas would be back in business after Nike was finished suing them in court.
Nike’s lawsuit revolved around the Lotas branding his shoe lineup as custom dunks, which came across as an obvious ripoff from Nike’s famous shoe style that had been running for over thirty-five years. Aside from a few minor adjustments that Warren Lotas described as luxury quality components, he retailed these shoes for $300 USD a pair. However, on the streets, it was resold for at least triple the original price. Early in the fall of 2020, Warren Lotas released the latest version of his sneaker that was designed in partnership with Staple Pigeon’s Jeff Stable. On Instagram, it was called the official interpretation of a cult classic. However, this classic was not endorsed by Nike, nor was there any partnership with the company. As a result, Nike sought to make an example out of Lotas and his latest shoe brand, which started with an official lawsuit in a Los Angeles federal court. Nike described Lotas as a bad actor that was attempting to promote and sell the Nike Dunks, which was a highly sought-after item at the time. When it comes to its product line and trademark, Nike is very protective of its iconic sneaker designs, as well as the intellectual property that goes into them. By making examples out of the likes of Warren Lotas, it serves as a message to other copycat artists that it will not tolerate being mocked as a maker of quality athletic wear.
Although Warren Lotas hadn’t done the Lotas Dunks for very long, it still caused enough confusion among consumers when it came to distinguishing the difference between the authentic Nike Dunk originals and the illegal fakes designed by Lotas. Nike argued this confusion created by Warren Lotus was intentional as he strove to capitalize on the popularity of a product that has already been trademarked by somebody else. Nike took it upon itself to sue Warren Lotas for an unspecified amount of damages at the time, plus all the profit earned from the sale of each shoe. It was also by the demand that Warren Lotus surrender all unsold goods that were in question to Nike so that they could be destroyed so that it would be kept out of reach from the marketplace. The images featured on Women’s Wear Daily shows the authentic Nike Dunks situated next to the Lotas Dunks. Although it is evident the logos aren’t identical, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe the marketing scheme Warren Lotas exercised in the design of this particular shoe lineup. Warren Lotas’ attempt to sell his version of Dunks would have gone better if the shoes didn’t resemble too closely to Nike’s Dunks, both in name and design. However, this was not done and he, along with his little company, moved forward with a blatant move to sell a copycat product to an audience that either didn’t know any better, as well as a consumer base who couldn’t care less if it’s an authentic Nike Dunk or not. At the time, the young designer from Los Angeles didn’t seem to clue in that a lawsuit against him from Nike was bound to happen.
About the Nike Dunks
Nike first introduced the Nike Dunk sneakers in 1985 and it continues to live on as a retro design. The authentic Nike SB Dunk Low was designed specifically for skateboarders, which began its run as a sneaker series in 2002. The infamous Swoosh logo that has become the official Nike trademark came from 1971 Portland State University graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson. According to Tailor Brands, it took over seventeen hours for the design’s development before it was presented to Nike, who was then Blue Ribbon Sports at the time. The name, Nike, started off as a brand of football shoe before actually becoming the new company name. Davidson’s professor, Phil Knight, who first approached her to come up with a design for his new company, didn’t care for the artwork at first. However, he went ahead with it anyway. Since then, the Swoosh has become so much more than just a logo. While Nike has brought forth a number of different fonts and variations over the years, the Swoosh has always remained at the core of what has become so much more than just a logo.
About the Warren Lotas Dunks
The lineup of Warren Lotas Dunks was purposely designed to be a few shades different from the authentic Nike Dunk brand. While this is not an uncommon practice by many knockoff artists, what made the story of Warren Lotus’ copycat attempt stand out was the level of success he had achieved. In a comment, Warren Lotas stated he had no intention to sell the Lotas Dunks as a shoe. However, in 2019 the Los Angeles designer attempted selling Nikes he had customized. He did try, once upon a time, to get pairs directly from Nike at wholesale prices. Sans an actual Nike connection, Lotas purchased the shoes at retail prices he’d later remake with his horror-flick graphic hits. Lotus admitted he would visit a Foot Locker and buy the Nike Aire Force 1 models and remove the Swoosh logo. He would then take the trademark logo to a cobbler and apply the alternated version back on. According to Lotus, it wasn’t a very lucrative business, but it worked. At least for a while. This was before investing in the Nike SB Dunk Low. With these, instead of physically altering the shoes, he posted images on Instagram on a 2006 SB Dunk Low sample he had done in Jason Voorhees colorways. He replaced the curve point at the end of the Swoosh with a hockey mask resembling Jason, the infamous Friday the 13th villain of the iconic horror movie series. According to Warren Lotas, it was his attempt to bring forth his namesake’s brand ghoulish imagery into the consumer marketplace. However, for Lotas, simply having the image was not enough. Warren Lotas had every intention to make his brand of shoes sellable. He learned how to make and sell shoes and purposely distanced his lineup by stripping off the Nike label and replacing it with his own initials. There were four designs he sold referenced the colorways of rare, real SB sneakers, just like the Stussy from 2005 and the Heineken from 2003. Starting in November 2019, Lotas began selling the Voorhees design and chared $300 USD for each pair. According to Lotas, there was a run of 1,000 pairs of this particular design of sneakers. When Nike learned of this, Nike filed a lawsuit against Warren Lotas. The moment the multinational company did this, the substance of the Lotas Dunk shoes have become obscured.
Let the Lawsuit Begin
Nike officially filed its lawsuit against Warren Lotas at the Central District Court of California, pointing out Lotas committed a trademark infringement against the company and condemning his shoes as an illegal lineup of fakes. Nike wanted Lotas to stop selling the shoes and made a demand for three times the damages incurred, as well as all profits from the sale of the mockup Dunks and legal fees. After the summer, the litigation was cluttered with similar lookalikes that were fashioned after recognizable retro models. There was an Air Jordan 1 that featured a middle finger Swoosh, as well as a Jordan that had the logo replaced with a lightning bolt, and a sexually suggestive Nike Blazer knockoff. Although none of these shoes were Nike’s, the resemblance of the Warren Lotas Dunks was too close for comfort as the paneling and shapes mimick the infamous silhouettes that clearly belong to Nike. For Nike, the big concern was consumers looking upon the Warren Lotas Dunks and linking its design to the trademark Swoosh logo that has been a Nike trademark since 1971. The founder of The Fashion Law, Julie Zerbo, agreed that consumers would link the Lotas Dunks to the source of Nike. There were screenshots taken from Instagram comments by Nike in the attempt to establish there were people following Warren Lotas that there were belief customers thought the Lotas Dunks were mistaken as Nike Dunks. However, the evidence suggested no actual clarity that consumers had been fooled.
Warren Lotas argued his sneakers were designed to appeal to a customer base that knew the value of original releases they nod to and are knowledgeable enough to know Nike isn’t simply going to reissue shoes that don’t have the authentic Swoosh logo. It was believed, as a worst-case scenario, the shoes may be misconstrued as customized work. However, the Lotas Dunks were disruptive of the resale market, which offered shortcuts that eroded the hype Nike had developed for at least two decades. For Warren Lotas, he felt his Lotas Dunks at $300 USD a pair was a good, less expensive substitute to the authentic Nike SBs that were sold fifteen years prior that could sell for at least a few thousand dollars.
Sneaker collector, Danny Mina, commented an authentic Nike Dunk is something he’s unable to afford but can afford one from Lotas. He issued a pre-order of the Warren Lotas Pigeon-colorway Dunks that were created in collaboration with Jeff Staple. He is the same designer who created the authentic Nike SB Pigeon Dunk series from 2005. The purchase of the Pigeon-style Lotas Dunks made by Mina was the final design Warren Lotas promoted before Nike filed the lawsuit. Although Mina did pay money for the Lotas Dunk shoes, he didn’t expect to receive a pair. With Warren Lotas, any pre-ordered items meant there would be a wait of three to four months before shipment. However, since Nike filed the lawsuit against Lotas, the shoes had yet to be delivered. Since Nike filed a preliminary injunction to block all Lotas Dunk brands to be shipped, Warren Lotas promised to deliver a makeup shoe product that would not resemble the Nike Dunks, which includes the Pigeon elements that came with it. However, this offering has since seen customers like Mina demand a refund as the product that was intended for purchase is no longer available. Mina openly admitted he has no issues about spending money on what is a blatant ripoff, but also felt Lotas has some legitimacy as Jeff Staple did agree to work with him on the Lotas Pigeon Dunk project. However, despite the reputation of Jeff Staple and his own brand of success that includes a lengthy working relationship with Nike, was unable to convince social media of the Warren Lotas Pigeon Dunks’ worth. Instead, he alienated the fans of Nike, who flooded him with negative comments and heavy criticism against his actions. It didn’t get any better when Warren Lotas openly commented it was Staple who contacted him by direct message on Instagram in 2020 to collaborate on the Pigeon design idea. This is a story Staple seemed to agree with during an interview with the reseller, Benjamin Kickz on his YouTube channel. It was brought up by Staple why bootleggers like Bape’s Bapesta version of the Nike Air Force 1 seem to be accepted while imitations of Sketchers are not.
As the Drama Continued
At one point, Warren Lotas took it upon himself to file a counter suit against Nike over Nike’s trademarks over the contested Dunk series. Lotas’ argument is the design and details of the shoes in question all have utilitarian functionality that are unavoidable. Lotas also suggested the Nike designs are fair game and felt the company’s lawsuit against him was an act of prejudice. With a number of brands that thrive off imitation products of the most recognized brands, including Nike, it does bring up the argument about what is deemed okay in the fashion industry and what isn’t. The stance Warren Lotas has taken against Nike resembles a fashion industry version of little David going up against the mighty Goliath.
And the Winner Is…
On December 11, 2021, in an out-of-court settlement, Nike and Warren Lotas finally made peace to bring the matter of the Warren Lotas Dunks issue to a close. The consented judgment and permanent junction now prohibit Warren Lotus from infringing the Nike trademark and trade dress. Warren is also barred from having anything to do with Nike trademarks and styles, including the Swoosh logo and all the word-marks and Dunk silhouettes. There has also been a settlement that prevents Warren Lotas from using any other marks, names, logos, or symbols that can potentially cause confusion with any of Nike’s products. Basically, anything and everything to do with Nike is off-limits for Warren Lotas. As for any monetary settlements, the confidentiality agreement does not disclose this information. However, the judge ruled against Warren Lotas for infringing and diluting the Nike trademarks. It was also made clear that the Nike asserted marks are valid and enforceable, which crushed Warren Lotas’s argument that the Nike logo should be invalid. Although Warren Lotas may not be allowed to carry on with any Nike knockoffs, he still moves forward with his streetwear as he establishes himself as a legitimate brand and designer on his Instagram account. According to UniCourt, the matter isn’t one hundred percent resolved yet. There are still a few issues on the table, but one thing is for certain is Warren Lotas’ name has certainly become more popular ever since he poked the big bear, Nike, Inc.