Nike and Footlocker Swept Up in Surf Documentarian’s Lawsuit

Bruce Brown, the distinguished filmmaker known for capturing the sport of surfing, is suing Footlocker and Nike for infringing upon trademarks he holds in connection with his seminal surf documentary, “The Endless Summer.”

In a complaint filed on March 17, 2020, in the United District Court of the Central District of California, Bruce Brown Films LLC has alleged that Foot Locker Inc. and Nike Inc. disregarded its trademarks for the phrase, “The Endless Summer” and a distinctive movie poster design in an ad campaign to sell apparel. Even after Brown reportedly sent a letter to the companies demanding that they refrain from using his IP, he nevertheless claimed that they continued to infringe his marks, including his “trade dress” (meaning the distinctive visual features of a product).

Seeking unspecified damages, Brown is suing for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution.

According to the complaint, Brown’s 1966 classic, “The Endless Summer” follows two surfers on a trip around the world in search of the perfect wave and is considered to be “one of the most influential films to depict surfing and the surfing lifestyle.” Additionally, the heavily praised movie posters that consist of stylized blue waves and an orange sun have become famous in their own right.

Beginning around May 2019 until August 2019, Foot Locker and Nike launched a marketing campaign that used the words “Endless Summer” and iconic elements of the film poster in digital ads to promote the sale of Nike shoes and apparel. Display cases in retail stores also featured a nearly identical copy of Brown’s recognizable graphics alongside footwear colored orange and blue in what seems to be an unmistakable reference to the poster.

Brown stated that as a result of the companies’ sale of goods, the public is likely to be “confused, deceived, and/or to falsely believe that there is an association between [the plaintiff] on the one hand and, [Footlocker] and Nike, on the other” when “in truth and in fact [there is] not.”

Brown said, “The Endless Summer” and images emblematic of the movie have become distinct brands that continue to be “highly profitable property for purposes of licensing goods and services.” Thus, the infringement, falsely suggesting a connection with his brand, Brown continued, tarnishes his reputation as well as “dilute[es] the distinctive nature” of his “Endless Summer” trademarks.

Brown is represented by Bahram Niknia of the Niknia Law Firm.

Counsel information for Nike and Foot Locker is not immediately available.

The case is Bruce Brown Films LLC v. Foot Locker Inc. et al., case number 2:20-cv-02553, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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