Steven Madden Shoe Design Victory Upheld

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Steven Madden Ltd. has preserved its victory in a case over whether it violated a footwear competitor’s intellectual property rights by copying shoe designs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Oct. 23 that a federal trial court correctly dismissed Eliya Inc.'s trade dress infringement lawsuit. Trade dress law allows a company to claim that a product’s design or packaging functions like a trademark.

The ruling emphasizes that a company claiming trade dress rights must meticulously define its purported trade dress and prove that it’s distinctive. Functional features, which improve the quality or cost of a product, can’t be claimed as trade dress.

The Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Eliya’s lawsuit failed to define the specific design characteristics of the Lulia Shoe, Comfi Shoe, and Catwalk Shoe that operated like trademarks, rather than just as the shoe’s features.

Eliya failed to precisely define its claimed trade dress, and how it indicated that Eliya was the maker, the appeals court said. Eliya simply described all the shoes’ features and included photographs.

“Eliya’s descriptions amount to ‘a laundry list of the elements that constitute a shoe’s features,’ with no explanation as to how they are distinctive,” the court said. “The photos of the shoes do not make up for the deficiency in the precise expression of the distinctive features of the trade dress.”

Judges Jon O. Newman, Susan L. Carney, and Richard J. Sullivan issued the court’s ruling.

The Law Office of Tedd S. Levine represented Eliya. Amster, Rothstein & Ebenstein LLP represented Steven Madden.

The case is Eliya, Inc. v. Steven Madden, Ltd., 2018 BL 389669, 2d Cir., No. 18-831, 10/23/18.

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