NIKE sues MMA brand Venum for alleged trademark infringement

Lyoto Machida - Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

In a new lawsuit filed in Portland, Oregon, NIKE -- the world's leading sports apparel company -- is suing the niche mixed martial arts (MMA) brand Venum Fight for trademark infringement.

In the sports apparel world, Venum is just a little too close to Venom.

In a lawsuit filed in Oregon District Court on Jan. 8, 2014, NIKE has accused Venum Fight of purposely attempting to draw associations between the two brands in an effort to sell merchandise, with charges including (but not limited to) false designation of origin and unfair competition.

NIKE claims it has used and promoted the Venom name throughout the United States in connection with athletic apparel and equipment since at least 2002, while Venum registered its trademark in 2008.

But this is not just a case of similar-sounding names, as NIKE asserts that Venum was also taking advantage of the association by selling NIKE sneakers.

Dicey.

Here are excerpts from the actual suit (via Sherdog), which petitions the court to prevent the mixed martial arts (MMA) retailer from continuing to operate under the Venum brand and to have its inventory destroyed.

- Because of NIKE’s use and promotion of the mark VENOM throughout the United States in connection with athletic apparel and equipment, consumers have come to associate VENOM as a source identifier of NIKE.

- Venum advertise, offer to sell, and/or distribute athletic apparel and equipment in the United States bearing the mark VENUM.

- Defendants intentionally attempt to draw associations between NIKE and Defendants. For example in addition to Infringing Products Defendants advertise offer to sell, or distribute authentic NIKE product on their websites. As of the filing date of this Complaint, Defendants were offering at least eleven different styles of NIKE boxing shoes on their website.

Venum, which lists itself as "The #1 MMA & Combat Sports brand" on Twitter, operates under DBV Distribution, Inc., and Dragon Bleu, and has an international reach that Rio, Paris and Los Angeles.

It's also a major sponsor of top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) standouts like featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Carlos Condit, Wanderlei Silva, Miesha Tate, Gegard Mousasi, and former light heavyweight champions Lyoto Machida and Maurico Rua. No Venum would mean no sponsorship income.

NIKE also sponsors UFC fighters, including Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Junior dos Santos.

Venum has yet to release a statement regarding the suit.

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