With the release of the Nike “Metcon 2”, many “crossfitters” are still wondering whether the on-going brand war between Reebok and Nike is finally over. The simple answer to that question is no. Reebok/Crossfit continue to send various cease and desist letters to Nike, whenever the sporting goods conglomerate attempts to use the Crossfit name. Nike has developed rather tactical approaches in which to market their Crossfit products, in such a way that don’t mention the name or even reference the sport.
Crossfit Inc. has made long strides in trying to protect its brand names over the years. Various gyms have tried to coin versions of the Crossfit name in their titles. In addition, various vendors of exercise equipment, and even those who teach exercise classes, have made an attempt to market themselves as being “Crossfit” related. They believe it is a generic term that can be used in various ways, however, they have lost that battle time and time again.
These cases have opened up a rather simple version of trademark infringement. Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services. If a person, or company, tries to use the trademarked brand name, Crossfit, they are in violation of the law. A trademark owner who believes its mark is being infringed may file a civil action (i.e., lawsuit). This lawsuit may be brought either at the state level, or at the federal level, depending on the severity of the circumstances. In most cases, trademark owners choose to sue for infringement at the federal level, as even when a plaintiff pursues action at the state level, it can be removed into federal court. If the trademark owner is able to prove that there was an infringement, there are remedies available which include the following: (1) a court order (injunction) that the defendant stop using the accused mark; (2) an order requiring the destruction or forfeiture of infringing articles; (3) monetary relief, including defendant’s profits, any damages sustained by the plaintiff, and the costs of the action; and (4) an order that the defendant, in certain cases, pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.
In Nike’s instance, it is hard to say that they are infringing on the Crossfit name. They are creating products that are directly used in the “Crossfit world”, however, they are not using any specific names or references to the fitness conglomerate. In fact, if a person were unaware of Crossfit as a sport (which seems highly impossible) they would simply see the Nike products as general training gear. There is no confusion, deception, or mistaken sources of goods/services with regards to Reebok or Crossfit. Although it may appear that Nike is extremely crafty in getting around any trademark issue, Reebok/Crossfit would argue otherwise. They may argue that the name of the Nike shoe itself “metcon” is an indirect infringement. The term metcon (short for metabolic conditioning) is a phrase coined from the Crossfit world. Crossfit workouts are composed of “metcons” therefore would be argued to be directly related to the sport. Crossfit can argue that by branding/marketing a shoe as the Nike Metcon, they are going to confuse/deceive consumers into believing that they are Crossfit products after all.
Let’s hope for Crossfit’s sake, this never becomes an actual lawsuit on behalf of Nike or Reebok. The creation of the Nike Metcon shoe has really improved training for many individuals and has only created healthy competition between Reebok and Nike. In my own opinion (which may not be weighed very heavily), I believe it would only be in the best interest of Crossfit to include Nike in their brand name. Creating competition can be great for the sport, and lets face it, Nike has the potential of putting Crossfit center stage of the fitness world. Also, as a Crossfit athlete who recently made the switch from the Reebok shoe to the Nike shoe, I must say the Nike shoe is pretty amazing.