‘Satan Shoes,’ Nike Lawsuits and the Booming Sneaker Bootleg Market


Professor Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institue, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal in an article examining the release of “Satan Shoes,” which resemble Nike sneakers.

By now, you’ve likely heard of the “Satan Shoes,” black-and-red modified Nike Air Max sneakers whose maker, a company called Mschf claimed they contain a drop of human blood in the sole. Released on March 29, the demonic-looking shoes were not—as was commonly misreported—an official Nike release. They were bootlegs created by the rapper Lil Nas X in partnership with Mschf, a controversy-baiting product design firm in Brooklyn. Within a week, the unauthorized shoes drew a blizzard of publicity, and Nike obtained a temporary restraining order against Mschf.
Last Thursday Nike and Mschf settled out of court, with Mschf agreeing to buy back the sneakers from customers at their original $1,018 price—Mschf claimed that 665 of the 666 pairs it produced had been sold. In a statement following the settlement, Nike reiterated that it “had nothing to do with the Satan Shoes,” and that “the parties are pleased to put this dispute behind them.” In an emailed statement, the lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton representing the design studio, David Bernstein, wrote, “MSCHF recognized that settlement was the best way to allow it to put this lawsuit behind it so that it could dedicate its time to new artistic and expressive projects.”
Nike has traditionally not been very litigious with these types of creative bootleggers and, according to Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, most of these niche companies are not likely to face litigation. She noted that while these sneakers do copy some recognizable attributes of Nike sneakers they don’t replicate trademarked elements of the Nike brand such as the Swoosh or the slogan “Just Do It.” In the few cases where Nike has taken legal action, such as with Warren Lotas, the Swoosh has often been present on the sneakers. Further, she said, most of these labels are not tarnishing Nike’s brand image in a significant, highly public manner.

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