Local company sues Nike over "Finish Strong" slogan

By Andrew Thomason | Feb 18, 2014

A Chicago company is accusing footwear giant Nike of trampling its trademarked name.

Finish Strong LLC filed a lawsuit against Nike Feb. 10 in Chicago's federal court, alleging that Nike infringed on its more than decade-old  "Finish Strong" trademark when it began to brand its products with the slogan last year.

Naperville resident Dan Green, owner of Finish Strong, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the Finish Strong brand, according to the suit that notes he used that branding to sell apparel, books, DVDs and nutritional products.

Finish Strong, according to the complaint, also licensees the use of its trademarked name to major corporations, professional athletes and a team associated with the National Football League.

The company claims it has a 1998 trademark, which was renewed in 2009, that outlines the use of the "Finish Strong" slogan on various forms of clothing while Nike only started branding its products with the "Finish Strong" slogan last year.

Nike has t-shirts with the phrase "Start Strong Finish Stronger" that the complaint asserts is a violation of Finish Strong LLC's trademark.

Also, the suit states, Nike is currently using "Finish Strong" as part of an internet promotion centered on its running gear.

The headlines of the site state "Finish Strong. To finish strong you have to start somewhere. Anywhere. All you need is your crew a time and a place. We believe in strong finishes. Finish the year like you finish each run. Strong."

Finish Strong LLC claims it informed Nike about the alleged trademark violation, but Nike didn't change or remove its apparel or marketing.

Nike is no stranger to legal battles over trademarked slogans, as the complaint points out.

"Nike’s willful use of the Finish Strong trademark despite being informed of Finish Strong LLC’s rights to it is especially egregious given Nike’s awareness of the source identifying power of trademarks as evidenced by Nike’s longstanding aggressive enforcement of its own trademark rights such as the company’s tagline 'Just Do It,'" the complaint states.

Finish Strong's suit includes counts for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, common law trademark infringement and violation of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The Chicago-company is asking the federal court to permanently enjoin Nike from "using in any manner the Finish Strong trademark, or any other colorable imitation of the Finish Strong trademark, or any other designation that is confusingly similar."

Finish Strong also wants Nike to pay it all profits made through the alleged trademark violation, including prejudgment interest. Additionally, the company is asking that Nike pay trebled and actual damages for the alleged trademark violations.

Attorney Joseph Vanek of Vanek, Vickers & Masini in Chicago filed the suit on behalf of Finish Strong.

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