Internet collective MSCHF says it’s not infringing on Nike’s trademark with a pair of exclusive, blood-infused “Satan Shoes,” setting the stage for a bigger legal battle.
After filing a lawsuit earlier this week, Nike sought a temporary restraining order to bar MSCHF from fulfilling any orders of its Satan Shoes — a $1,018 Nike sneaker embellished with a pentagram and allegedly injected with ink and a single drop of blood. But in a response filed yesterday, MSCHF says all but one pair of the shoes, a 666 pair collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, have already shipped.
“Contrary to Nike’s speculation in its papers, all but one pair of the shoes already have been sold and shipped. MSCHF has no intention of issuing additional Satan Shoes,” MSCHF’s attorneys wrote in a response to the Nike suit. The collective says it planned to give away the last pair on April 2nd, but it’s suspended that plan due to the lawsuit.
Nike claimed that MSCHF sold its shoes using Nike branding but modified them in ways that tarnish Nike’s brand. It cited internet commenters who believed the shoes were official products. But MSCHF argues that buyers knew Nike hadn’t designed the Satan Shoes. It also accuses Nike of singling out the Satan Shoe while ignoring a similar 2019 “Jesus Shoe.” In a footnote to a court filing, Nike says it may amend the suit to include Jesus Shoes, but it’s not targeting them because they aren’t being sold at this time.
MSCHF argued that since “there will be no further distribution of Satan Shoes” for now, Nike wouldn’t suffer any harm that would require a restraining order. However, a judge found the argument unconvincing and granted the order on April 1st.
More generally, MSCHF says the shoes are works of artistic social commentary — comparable to signed Banksy prints. “These shoes are works of art that are intended to criticize the ever popular ‘collab culture,’ where brands like Nike collaborate with anyone willing to make a splash,” its response says. They were sold in partnership with Lil Nas X, but they were also “portrayed as a collaboration with Satan himself (a comment on the extreme collab culture).”
The collective later released a statement elaborating on its intentions. “We believe it is better to make art that participates directly in its subject matter; it is stronger to do a thing, than to talk about a thing. MSCHF makes artworks that live directly in the systems they critique, instead of hiding inside white-walled galleries,” it reads in part. “We were honestly surprised by the action Nike has taken, and immediately after Nike’s counsel sent us notice we reached out but received no response.” It says that following Nike’s actions, the final shoe giveaway has been postponed “indefinitely.”
The filing basically acknowledges that the Satan Shoes were more of a one-off stunt than a full-fledged commercial product. But if the two parties go to court, they could set a legal precedent for the entire fashion world, particularly online sellers who “upcycle” or heavily modify designer clothes.
Update 5:00PM ET: Article has been updated to reflect that a judge granted the restraining order against MSCHF.
Update 5:15PM ET: Article has been updated with a statement from MSCHF.