Art Basel and its Swiss parent company MCH are suing Adidas over limited-edition trainers that the German sportswear giant designed using the art fair’s trademark and distributed during Art Basel Miami Beach last year. It is the first time that Art Basel has filed a lawsuit in the US, according to national records.
In the complaint, filed in Florida on 30 May, Art Basel accuses Adidas of “diluting the distinctiveness and value of [its] famous mark” and misrepresenting an affiliation with the art fair. Art Basel has previously licensed its mark to several companies including BMW, Audemar Piguet watches and Davidoff cigars.
Art Basel is seeking damages and the destruction of the “offending” shoes, which were available on eBay at the time of writing, with a starting price of around $249.
Around 1,000 pairs of the customised EQT trainers were made, featuring the words Art Basel on the tongue. They were first distributed in mid-November 2016, before the opening of Art Basel Miami Beach on 30 November. A further 500 trainers were given away for free at two dance performances the day the fair opened, according to the complaint.
Furthermore, Art Basel alleges that Adidas invited journalists to Miami to report on the trainers, citing coverage in publications including Hypebeast and the Nice Kicks blog. The journalists were given free shoes, according to the complaint.
Even though Adidas distributed the trainers for free, Art Basel says the sportswear company knew they would “quickly be placed on internet selling platforms such as eBay”. As a result, Adidas has “enjoyed the benefits of an exclusive licence of the Art Basel mark without paying for or obtaining a licence[…] and, therefore, has been unjustly enriched”, the complaint says.
Adidas declined to comment for this article and had not filed a response in court at the time of writing.