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Vans sues over Wavy Baby shoe collaboration with rapper Tyga

The novelty goods company MSCHF faced a similar lawsuit last year over its Satan Shoes, created in collaboration with the rapper Lil Nas X.

BROOKLYN (CN) — Vans, famous for its waffle-soled skating shoes, sued a Brooklyn-based novelty goods company in federal court on Thursday over its to-be-released Wavy Babys, saying the "blatant knockoff" shoes will confuse customers who assume they're genuine Vans shoes.

In collaboration with the rapper Tyga, the company MSCHF plans to release the shoes at noon on April 18, and posted a countdown on its website to mark the drop. The black lace-up sneakers feature a white, wavy line on the sides and a doctored Vans logo that replaces the brand for the word "wavy."

Vans says the shoes piggyback on its hard-earned fame, ripping off the Old Skool style the company created more than 40 years ago. MSCHF maintains that the project is a "complete distortion" of the iconic brand.

Tyga, whose full name is Michael Stevenson, debuted the shoes in the music video for "Freaky Deaky," a song he recorded with artist Doja Cat. He has been promoting them on Instagram and TikTok, garnering millions of likes.

Vans' complaint notes that the company has worked with rappers in the past, including Anderson .Paak and A$AP Rocky, as well as bands like Metallica and Foo Fighters.

"Given Vans’ history of collaborations with musical artists, on information and belief, the collaboration between MSCHF and Michael Stevenson is intended to deceive consumers into believing they are purchasing a product made by, sponsored by, approved by, or otherwise associated with Vans," the 57-page complaint states.

Even the name Wavy Baby, Vans argues, copies the WAYVEE mark the company has used since at least August of 2021, according to the complaint.

Vans gives an overview of of its startup in Southern California — brothers Paul and James Van Doren founded the company in 1966, and the Vans Old Skool came out in 1977 — and celebrities who have helped to popularize its shoes, including Kanye West, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner. The latter previously dated Tyga.

The federal lawsuit by Vans against novelty goods company MSCHF shows the latter's Wavy Baby shoes (right) that it says infringe the design and stylized logo of Vans' shoes (left). (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

Prior to filing suit, Vans says it sent Stevenson and MSCHF cease-and-desist letters but could not come to an agreement.

"The Old Skool is one of our iconic styles worn by Vans fans of all ages around the world and we remain committed to safeguarding our heritage and intellectual property," Vans wrote in a statement Thursday. "While we’re unable to comment on pending litigation and are disappointed that it has reached this point, we are taking the necessary legal action."

MSCHF tells the story a little differently: In those conversations, the company says, Vans asked for half the profits of shoe sales — they're set to go for $220 a pop — and four pairs of the shoes.

"They also indicated they were willing to meet about future collaborations LMAO," according to a statement from MSCHF. "Turns out that they were shaking our hand at the same time they were stabbing us in the back."

Wavy Baby shoes, to MSCHF, are a means of artistic freedom and distorting the very cultural symbol that Vans touts in its complaint.

"Wavy Baby is the platonic ideal of a skate shoe, warped to shit," MSCHF says in the statement. "Sneaker companies are in a constant cycle of riffing on each other. Standard shoe industry practice is: steal a sole, steal an upper, change a symbol. What a boring use of cultural material. Wavy Baby is a complete distortion of an entire object that is itself a symbol."

The filing comes roughly a year after Nike filed a similar lawsuit in the same court over MSCHF's "Satan Shoes" — stylized with a pentagram and other Satanic imagery and injected with a drop of human blood in the soles — created in partnership with the artist Lil Nas X. The case was settled in an undisclosed agreement.

The parallel wasn't lost on Vans.

"Rather than innovating and developing their own unique shoes, Defendant MSCHF is known for free-riding on famous brands, such as Nike," the complaint states.

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