Satan Shoes: Trademark Blasphemy or Free Speech?
Though the parties have quickly settled their case, the question remains open: was Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoe” an exercise of free speech or a trademark violation? What we do know is that sneaker giant Nike’s complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York on March 29, 2021 alleged a dispute of biblical proportions against Brooklyn art collective MSCHF Product Studio, Inc. Nike targeted its own Air Max 97 shoe, which it claimed MSCHF and its collaborator Lil Nas X (who was not named in the lawsuit) materially altered to feature an upside down cross, a pentagram, and an injection of human blood into the sole to create the “Satan Shoe” – 666 of them to be exact. The Satan Shoe still displays Nike’s famous Swoosh, which inspired calls to boycott the brand for its alleged association with the controversial shoes. Nike asserted claims of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false designation of origin, and unfair competition, and sought a temporary restraining order, a permanent injunction, and damages.