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The skateboarding company Vans, known for its iconic shoes, has over the years collaborated on designs with partners from Disney and the ASPCA to rock groups and prominent designer labels. Now a new lawsuit presents the question of whether every one of the designs was properly licensed.
The complaint filed Thursday in California federal court comes from Schwartzman Pictures, the company of the late producer Jack Schwartzman. Schwartzman (who, yes, fathered actor Jason Schwartzman) executive produced the 1986 BMX film Rad.
Directed by the late Hal Needham (whose estate coincidentally filed one of the lawsuits in several directors’ dispute with the major studios over profit participation) and released by TriStar, Rad centers on a young man named Cru Jones (Bill Allen) who competes on a dangerous BMX course called the Helltrack. It’s become something of a cult phenomenon, with a reunion held for the film’s 25th anniversary and a documentary proposed on Kickstarter.
Enter Vans. In 2007 or earlier, the company produced a series of shoes featuring the Rad logo. Schwartzman says it never licensed the logo to Vans and first learned of the shoe series in 2012 when someone noticed a pair and notified the company.
“Plaintiff reached out to Vans in August 2012 to discuss a potential licensing deal of the Mark for use of Vans’ apparel but no deal was ever reached,” states the complaint.
The plaintiff claims ownership of the Rad logo under federal registration and common law. The complaint states the company registered the trademark in October 2013, presumably upon learning Vans was using it, but used the trademark since 1987, supporting a common law claim on the film’s intellectual property.
Schwartzman claims Vans’ use of the logo confused the public over whether the shoes were endorsed by the makers of Rad. Judging by some blog entries, the film company might be right.
Represented by Randall Leff and Russell Selmont of Ervin Cohen & Jessup, the company claims trademark infringement and unfair competition and common law versions of both claims. The company wants Vans enjoined from selling any shoes with the Rad trademarks, though it appears the shoes are no longer on Vans’ website.
A Vans spokesperson declined to comment.
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