Nike has won its lawsuit against Brooklyn art collective MSCHF over their controversial ‘Satan Shoes’ that contain a drop of real human blood in the soles.
The $1,018 (£740) trainers are modified Nike Air Max 97s that feature an inverted cross, a pentagram and the words “Luke 10:18”.
MSCHF produced the shoes in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X.
It said only 666 pairs were made and all but one have already been shipped.
Nike claimed trademark infringement, asking a federal court in New York to stop MSCHF from selling the shoes and prevent them from using its famous Swoosh.
“MSCHF and its unauthorised Satan Shoes are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike,” the sports shoe giant said in the lawsuit.
Lawyers for MSCHF countered that the 666 pairs it created were “not typical sneakers, but rather individually-numbered works of art that were sold to collectors for $1,018 each”.
Siding with Nike, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Thursday.
The impact of the ruling remains unclear as MSCHF had indicated it has no plans to produce any more pairs of the shoe.
MSCHF “dropped” the black and red shoes on Monday, coinciding with the launch of Lil Nas X’s latest song Montero (Call Me By Your Name), which debuted on YouTube last Friday.
The song features the rapper, who came out as gay in 2019, celebrating his sexuality and rejecting attempts to shame him.
In a heavily stylised music video, he slides down a pole from heaven to hell before dancing provocatively with Satan, then snaps his neck and steals his horns.
The imagery and the shoes both reference the Bible verse Luke 10:18 – “So He told them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’.”
Each shoe also features a signature Nike air bubble cushioning sole, containing 60 cubic centimetres (2.03 fluid ounces) of red ink and a single drop of human blood, donated by members of the MSCHF art collective.
In its filing with the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Nike said it did not approve or authorise the customised Satan Shoes.
“There is already evidence of significant confusion and dilution occurring in the marketplace, including calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes, based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorised or approved this product,” it said.
The lawsuit cited a tweet by popular shoe influencer @Saint from last Friday, which teased the upcoming release of the shoes and drummed up publicity over the weekend on social media and in the media in the US.
Some conservatives, including South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and some religious followers, took offence at the controversial design of the shoes and criticised Lil Nas X and MSCHF on Twitter.
Lil Nas X hit back at the governor and other critics on Twitter, tweeting several memes on his profile in response to the Nike lawsuit.
Joseph Rasch of Tennessee, who paid $1,080 for the trainers, says he is worried the conflict means his money will be lost.
“I’m hoping I’ll receive them since I paid for them,” he told BBC OS on World Service radio, adding that he made the purchase not because he definitely planned to wear them but as a political statement.
“I wanted to support a black gay man who is attempting to show a different narrative in a majority Christian country that currently is dealing with a lot of issues with black people. So what better way to do that than to buy shoes that this person has collaborated with?” he said.
Buyer McKenzi Norris of South Carolina, a longtime follower of the MSCHF art collective, said Nike’s lawsuit had disrupted his plans to resell the trainers for $2,500 on eBay, which removed his listing.
“In general I think Nike’s lawsuit and their intervention is pretty ridiculous considering how much damage it can cause to everyday people like me who just like to customise and resell their products legally,” he said.