Nike and the internet collective MSCHF have settled their trademark dispute over a run of unofficially modified Satan-themed Nike sneakers. Neither company disclosed the terms of the deal. But it apparently includes an offer to let customers return their $1,018 “Satan Shoes” — or a pair of MSCHF’s earlier “Jesus Shoes” — for a full refund.
In a statement to The Verge, MSCHF’s attorneys said they were “pleased” with the settlement over the shoes, which were designed in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X. “With these Satan Shoes — which sold out in less than a minute — MSCHF intended to comment on the absurdity of the collaboration culture practiced by some brands, and about the perniciousness of intolerance,” the attorneys said. They said that the artistic message was also “powerfully” communicated by Lil Nas X’s song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “dramatically amplified” by Nike’s lawsuit.
“Having already achieved its artistic purpose, MSCHF recognized that settlement was the best way to allow it to put this lawsuit behind it so that it could dedicate its time to new artistic and expressive projects.”
MSCHF says it’s ‘achieved its artistic purpose’
Nike confirmed the settlement in a statement to The Verge. “MSCHF altered these shoes without Nike’s authorization,” the company said. “As part of the settlement, Nike has asked MSCHF, and MSCHF has agreed, to initiate a voluntary recall to buy back any Satan Shoes and Jesus Shoes for their original retail prices, in order to remove them from circulation. If any purchasers were confused, or if they otherwise want to return their shoes, they may do so for a full refund. Purchasers who choose not to return their shoes and later encounter a product issue, defect, or health concern should contact MSCHF, not Nike.”
It’s unclear how many — if any — buyers will return a pair of limited edition shoes whose value has likely been increased by a major publicity campaign around them.
Nike sued MSCHF over the Satan Shoes last week, saying the sneakers — which MSCHF embellished with ink, custom stitching, a pentagram charm, and (allegedly) a drop of blood — had tricked buyers and the public into believing Nike was “endorsing satanism.” MSCHF countered by calling the shoes a protected artistic commentary on “extreme collab culture,” and it said all but one of the 666 Satan Shoe pairs had already been shipped, with the final slated for a giveaway to Lil Nas X fans. However, Nike won the first round of a court battle, with a judge granting a temporary restraining order against MSCHF.
The Satan Shoes case could have set a precedent for how courts treat “upcycled” and heavily modified designer products. But a quiet resolution makes sense for Nike, which was apparently motivated by adverse publicity and potential damage to its reputation. (It did not file a similar suit when the Jesus Shoes were released in 2019, although it said last week that they also infringed its trademark.)
Meanwhile, MSCHF will apparently retain ownership of that final pair. “I can say that MSCHF intends to keep the last of the 666 shoes; regrettably, it will not be able to have Lil Nas X give that shoe away, as he was planning to do,” MSCHF’s attorneys said.