Columbia Sportswear, Goldtoe, Take Trademark Fight to Court

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Disputed sock: Columbia Sportswear's hiker sock

Portland, OR–Columbia Sportswear Co. and GoldToeMoretz LLC, are going toe to toe over women’s athletic socks in a dispute over trademarks that has wound up on U.S. Disctrict Court here.

The point of contention, it seems, is over three inverted triangles.

In addition to its well known yellow stitching on the toes of its socks, GoldToeMoretz-brand also uses another symbol: three inverted, stacked triangles that appear its PowerSox collection of athletic socks.

Dispute Over Three Inverted Triangles

GoldToeMoretz also has a trademarked its “3 Chevrons”  that appear in its logo separating the “GoldToe” and “Moretz,” the two sock companies that merged in 2006.

According to court documents, Columbia introduced a women’s outdoor sock sold under the trademark “Women’s Hiker Mid,” and “Women’s Hiker Lite.” Both styles are decorated with three inverted triangles inside a rectangular border as well as the Columbia Sportswear logo. Suggested retails about $15.

Goldtoe Moretz logo with triangles

In January, a GoldToeMoretz attorney sent Columbia a formal “cease and desist” request, citing Columbia’s use of the “3 Chevrons” mark, also asking for “entitlement to monetary remedies arising from arising from Columbia Sportswear’s unlawful activities.”

Columbia Sportswear responded by filing a lawsuit against GoldToe Moretz in February. A trial date was recently tentatively scheduled for June 2012.

In its suit, Columbia charges it doesn’t infringe or dilute GoldToeMoretz’ mark because its three triangles are ornamental, not a brand identifier. Moreover Columbia maintains the GoldToe trademark–if it even is one– is “weak and commonly used by third parties in the marketplace.”

What’s the big deal you ask?

“This type of dispute in the apparel industry is common, Eric Priest, a University of Oregon assistant law professor who specializes in intellectual trademark law told The Oregonian.

“There’s lots of (apparel) companies out there,” Priest said, “and, you know, it’s not unusual that they select–intentionally or not–a pleasing combination of design elements that are similar or reminiscent of somebody else’s product. That can often lead to conflict.”