Does Nike believe they are above respecting CrossFit’s intellectual property? History suggests so.
Nike has recently taken direct aim at the CrossFit market with the release of a shoe known as the “Metcon.” This shoe is obviously in competition with the Reebok CrossFit Nano shoe. Competition isn’t a bad thing, and generally leads to innovation and increased consumer choice. Unfortunately, Nike’s idea of competition seems to include blatant infringement of the CrossFit brand name.
Despite what Nike may think, individuals and companies are not free to use our intellectual property to promote their goods and services. Indeed, over 12,000 independently owned affiliate gyms worldwide pay for a license to use the CrossFit® mark to brand their boxes. There are also many major corporations, like Twitter, HGST, and Google that have paid affiliation fees to provide CrossFit training for their employees. Nike, Inc. isn’t one of them.
Nike’s use of our mark appears to be both widespread and significant. In 2011 we came across a photo describing a “Crossfit class” at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon.
Descriptions and evidence of CrossFit Classes being promoted inside Nike’s Headquarters have trickled in steadily ever since. This tweet from Nike PR director, Heidi Burgett shows that group classes have been promoted as “crossfit” since at least 2012.
Sports Illustrated recently published an article describing Nike’s World Headquarters as containing “a Crossfit room.”
Additionally, prior to the release of Nike’s Metcon shoe, the brand name CrossFit could be found in both hyperlinks and in the source code of Nike.com pages promoting the Metcon shoe, a classic search engine optimization trick to avoid being caught stealing another brand’s trademark. User reviews of the Nike Metcon referring to the shoe as a “CrossFit shoe” were also promoted on the website. As of today, Nike has not responded to a cease and desist sent by CrossFit, Inc.’s legal department regarding these issues.
Nike was also caught using the CrossFit trademark to sell shoes in their flagship store in Gangnam, Korea. They removed the term from their advertisements after receiving an earlier cease and desist from our legal team.
In some of the examples above (and many more we haven’t documented here) the use of the CrossFit trademark is once removed from Nike itself. Is this Nike’s way of trying to insulate themselves from liability by being able to blame someone else for infringing on our brand? Is it their intent to sell more shoes through a false association with the CrossFit brand and community? We’ve seen this exact behavior numerous times, mostly from unaffiliated gyms and gym chains looking to rip-off the CrossFit brand without getting into legal trouble. It seems odd that Nike, one of the world’s largest apparel companies would want to (or have to) follow suit.