Six black fraternities and sororities are suing Converse Inc., claiming the shoe company used their colors and founding dates on sneakers without permission.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court claims trademark infringement and unfair competition over Converse's GREEKPAK basketball shoes, which it began selling in 2003. The shoes are no longer sold.
"Converse is using our trademark just as if they were to put Coca-Cola's marks on a shoe of theirs without asking to use it," Michael Pegues, a Dallas patent attorney and Alpha Phi Alpha leader, told the Dallas Morning News for a story Wednesday.
A Converse spokeswoman said in a statement that the company wants to resolve the matter but did not comment on the specific allegations. The company has said the Greek traditional colors and founding years are not trademarked.
North Andover, Mass.-based Converse, was bought by Nike in 2003.
The fraternities and sororities contend that together those marks are recognized as belonging to the fraternity or sorority and should be protected by law even without trademark registration.
The suit seeks an injunction against further use of the designs as well as unspecified monetary damages. The Converse brand is part of Nike Inc.
The Greek organizations date to the early 1900s, when black students faced enormous discrimination and were barred from white fraternities.
The groups — Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta and Phi Beta Sigma — filed their suit in December 2003. But U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle dismissed it.
In April, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned part of the ruling and returned the case to court. Boyle has yet to set a date for hearings on the lawsuit.