Written by: Nicholas Holmes

On August 18, 2023, New Balance sued Golden Goose, Inc., (“Golden Goose”) for alleged trademark infringement with respect to Golden Goose’s “Dad-Star” sneaker.[1] In the complaint, New Balance alleges that Golden Goose willfully infringed on the common law trade dress rights New Balance has established in its 990 sneakers. New Balance additionally asserts one federal law claim for false designation of origin and two Massachusetts’s state law claims, specifically, trademark infringement and statutory dilution.[2]

In October 2021, Golden Goose began selling its Dad-Star sneaker which, like the 990, has a clunky design and grey colorway, among other colorways. The rugged looking shoes also come with a hefty price tag, retailing for $625 on its website.[3] The style name also seemingly references the ‘dad shoe’ trend, purportedly inspired by the New Balance 990. Golden Goose’s previous branding and creative decisions only add to the strength of the allegation that the alleged infringement was willful. Golden Goose is known for basing its creative designs off of the creative work of others.[4]

Further, confusion has already occurred in the marketplace, with consumers posting on social media photos of their Dad-Star sneakers with captions such as “990, but make it Golden Goose” and “Wait, luxury brands are repping 990v2s now?” among others.[5] New Balance being able to show actual confusion in the marketplace gives strength to the argument that trademark and trade dress infringement has occurred.

New Balance is famously known for its 990 sneakers, that are commonly coined as ‘Dad shoes’ for its clunky design and grey colorway. New Balance, who began to sell these shoes in 1982, claim that its 990 shoe is synonymous with the brand and conveys a distinctive look. New Balance has extensively marketed its 990 shoe as the “Original Dad Shoe” through worldwide advertising campaigns and an annual “Grey day” event. New Balance even has a “Grey Shop” section on its online marketplace.[6]

It is possible to receive trade dress protection in a design through the United States Patent and Trademark Office, albeit it is difficult to prove acquired distinctiveness. In the present case, New Balance does not have federal protection in the 990 trade dress design. However, New Balance’s extensive marketing and branding campaigns have achieved its primary goal of creating a connection of a brand to an idea, specifically the 990 shoe being a ‘dad shoe’ with a grey colorway, in the minds of consumers.

This case, although in its very early stages, should prove as a lesson to brand owners the power of effective marketing and branding when it comes to a product or design critical to a company’s success and popularity. New Balance is claiming protectable rights in the elements of the shoe and its colorway; something that would not be possible without ingraining in consumers minds that the clunky, grey shoe is synonymous with New Balance. New Balance has also shown, through coining its 990 shoes as a ‘dad shoe,’ the power of creating a connection between a product and a slogan, trend or idea.   

[1] New Balance Athletics, Inc. v. Golden Goose USA, Inc., 1:23-cv-11898, (D. Mass. Aug 18, 2023)

[2] Id.

[3] Golden Goose Dad-Star Retail Site

[4] New Balance Athletics, Inc. v. Golden Goose USA, Inc., Complaint, Page 4

[5] New Balance Athletics, Inc. v. Golden Goose USA, Inc., Complaint, Page 23

[6] New Balance Grey Shop