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Vans and Target in dispute over sneaker design

Canvas sneakers are popular casual footwear in Texas and across the country. This has helped lead to an intellectual property dispute between a shoe manufacturer and a major retail giant. Vans is suing Target in California, alleging that the discount department store's Carmella Lace-Up sneaker infringes on its trademarks for the Old Skool sneaker silhouette. The footwear company said that the appearance of the product is likely to create confusion among consumers about what they are buying.

As part of the lawsuit, Vans cited customer reviews on the Target website, some of which referred to the sneakers as "fake Vans." Vans also said that the retailer is trying to benefit from the popularity of its shoes and to use Vans' reputation to promote a larger line of its own products, called Wild Fable. The specific Carmella sneakers are a part of this collection. While the Target sneakers, made of polyester and polyurethane, retail for $15, the Vans version are made of suede and canvas with a signature waffle-patterned sole. These shoes sell for $60 online and in stores.

Vans is seeking an order prohibiting Target from selling, promoting or marketing the Carmella sneakers, which it says infringes its trademarked design. The footwear firm is seeking the destruction of the shoes and associated advertising materials. It is also seeking financial compensation for damages and lost sales due to the alleged infringement and attorney's fees.

Fashion designers and even major companies can face significant threats to their income due to theft of their intellectual property. Protecting distinct logos, phrases and images can be an important means for businesses to protect themselves from much larger manufacturers. An attorney can advise businesses on how trademarks, copyrights and other forms of protection can secure creative output.

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