Why is Adidas partnering with a knockoff brand?
The ascendance of e-commerce has brought about a huge wave of knockoffs and bootlegs, especially when it comes to sought-after, high-price, limited-edition products like sneakers. But instead of pursuing legal action, one of the biggest global sneaker manufacturers is now doing business with a small company that has made its name, at least in technical terms, with a violation of their trademark.
Adidas announced a partnership with Japanese artisanal shoe manufacturer Hender Scheme, a company that makes small-batch, handmade reproductions of big sneaker brands, according to Quartz. Adidas has brought on Hender Scheme for a multi-season collaboration, beginning with the creation of replicas of three popular shoes, all bearing the Adidas logo.
Unlike standard sneaker knockoffs, Hender Scheme styles shoes with a natural, tanned-leather look that gives them an identity all their own. In fact it may be their difference from the original shoes as much as the similarity that gives them their appeal to customers.
But while the creator considers its artisanal sneakers “homages” to the original brand, they are intentionally patterned directly on shoes made by Adidas and other big-name brands and, as Quartz reported, they often sell for $1,000 and up. So even though it can be argued that Hender Scheme is generating profit based off of names like Adidas and Nike, big brands have not jumped in to stop the company.
It’s clear that Adidas draws a delineation between homages and knockoffs, given that the manufacturer has not been shy about protecting its trademark elsewhere. Last year the company brought suit against Sketchers over design similarities.
And outside of accusations of concept theft between manufacturers, bootlegging by independents has become such a problem that major e-tailers have been forced to step in.
Both Amazon and Alibaba have struggled with third-party sellers using their platforms as hubs to sell counterfeit goods. Late last year, Amazon announced it would begin to require that third-party sellers pay fees and provide documentation for selling certain major brands, Adidas and Nike among them, along with other non-shoe brands like Hasbro and Samsung.
- Adidas is collaborating with a Japanese label to create artisanal knock-offs of its own shoes – Quartz
- Will Amazon’s brand-gating put counterfeiters out of business? – RetailWire
- Deja Shoe: Adidas Sues Skechers Again – Ad Age
- Will Adidas’s Speedfactory disrupt shoe production? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Adidas’s collaboration with Hender Scheme? Where should brands draw the line between “homage” and outright bootlegging? Should brands in other areas consider partnering with independent small companies selling “homages” to their products instead of pursuing trademark action?