By John Kell
Under Armour Inc. (>> Under Armour Inc) has filed a lawsuit against Nike Inc. (>> NIKE, Inc.), alleging the larger athletic-goods maker has infringed on the company's trademark ownership of the "I WILL" tagline.
In a lawsuit filed in Maryland's District Court, Under Armour alleged Nike has launched a broad advertising campaign that prominently utilizes "I WILL" in a way that imitates Under Armour's own use of that expression.
Nike's "use of I WILL infringes Under Armour's long-established trademark rights, dilutes the distinctiveness of Under Armour's famous mark, and constitutes unfair competition," Under Armour alleged in the legal complaint.
A Nike spokeswoman wasn't immediately available to comment on the allegations.
Under Armour claims it has used the "I WILL" campaign for many years, featuring the slogan on a variety of products, packaging, at retail stores and in advertising campaigns. The slogan also is featured on the company's latest global ad campaign, launched earlier this month. It likened the consumer awareness of that phrase to Nike's own "Just Do It" tagline.
Under Armour alleges that late last year, Nike began to market a similar phrase, including on the company's Facebook page with images that feature a variety of sports-related slogans, like "I will protect my home court" or "I will sweat while they sleep."
Under Armour's lawsuit is seeking a permanent injunction to stop Nike from using the trademark and require payment to Under Armour for any profits derived from such ad campaigns. Under Armour also is seeking additional damages for trademark infringement and reimbursement for legal fees.
Both companies have notched impressive sales growth in recent years, as athletic-gear manufacturers benefit from a strong product cycle as new materials, technology and colors resonate with consumers. Demand has been particularly strong in the North America market.
Nike--which sells gear under its namesake, as well as the Jordan, Converse and Hurley brands--dwarfs Under Armour in the North American market and has a far larger presence abroad. Nike's sales totaled $24.1 billion in the latest full fiscal year, far above Under Armour's $1.8 billion total.
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