The makers of Bata Toughees school shoes have run to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to stop a Chatsworth competitor from using their “wavy” shoe soles.
Futura Footwear, whose brands included Toughees and Bata Toughees, also want the court to order that an inquiry take place to determine the sum of royalties it should be awarded by Eugasen Reddy, the sole proprietor of Novita Shoes, for using the soles.
The marketing manager of Futura, Alexander Gordon, said in court papers that Bata footwear had been sold and promoted in the country since the 1930s and had developed a considerable reputation.
Being a market leader in school shoes, Gordon said the design had been copied or imitated by many companies, and the infringers had been dealt with.
He said the “distinctive” sole design had served to distinguish the brand from lookalikes when customers examined shoes before buying them.
“The sole serves to assist customers who are illiterate, to identify the Toughees shoes by visual symbols of the sole design more readily.”
Bata Limited had applied and registered the wavy sole pattern as a trademark, called Hank for boys and Pearl for girls.
In May 2007, it came to the marketing department’s attention that Novita was selling school shoes with the same overall pattern.
“It is visually identical and is deceptively similar to the registered wave pattern.”
Gordon said Reddy was passing off his footwear products as those of Bata’s.
In reply, Reddy denied any infringement or passing off its shoes as Bata’s. He said the case should be stayed because it had taken so long to come to court.
Dharmalingam Reddy, who had been in the footwear industry for more than 50 years, said in court papers that he had mentored Eugasen Reddy.
He said the sole pattern had not seemed to play any role in the mind of whoever bought the shoes.
He added that in displaying shoes, the soles’ patterns were not visible.
The case was adjourned to next year. - The Mercury