Kanye West and his Yeezy sneaker label have sued Walmart, accusing the retail giant of selling fake shoes.
Specifically, the billionaire rapper’s complaint, filed Thursday in California court in Los Angeles, claims the giant discounter has been selling fake versions of his bizarre-looking Foam Runner slides.
Introduced last year at a retail price of $75, the genuine Yeezy slides initially drew unflattering comparisons to Crocs. Nevertheless, they "instantly" sold out, and now sell for upwards of three times that on the secondary market, according to the suit.
The knockoffs on Walmart’s site, meanwhile, have been retailing for between $21.99 and $33.99 a pair. While Yeezy has sent Walmart legal warnings demanding that it yank the ripoff sneakers from its site, it has thus far failed to do so, according to the suit.
"Walmart is flagrantly trading off of his and Yeezy brand’s popularity by offering for sale an imitation version of the Yeezy Foam Runner," according to the suit. The legal salvo goes on to claim that "the Yeezy brand is worth ‘billions’ of dollars, and the potential loss from the imitation shoes in the ‘hundreds of millions.'"
The suit alleges that the real and fake Yeezy Foam Runners are "virtually indistinguishable."
Yeezy is concerned partly because the lookalikes being sold on Walmart.com appear to be "virtually indistinguishable" from the real thing, the suit says. "My son has been wanting the Yeezy slides but these look similar and are much more affordable," one customer wrote on the site, according to the suit.
"Consumers likely would have purchased the Yeezy Foam Runner were it not for the cheaper, knock-off imitation shoe," according the complaint.
In addition to stealing Yeezy’s market share, the fake sneakers are of "subpar quality,’ which in turn is hurting the "reputation and the goodwill of the Yeezy brand," according to the suit. It cited various customer complaints that the shoes fit poorly and "ripped after 20 minutes of wear" with one advising, "Don’t buy this garbage."
Walmart appears to have removed most of the counterfeit Foam Runners from its web site, though some could still be found in a search of its site on Thursday afternoon. Indeed, a review of Walmart.com pulls up other fake Yeezy merchandise, including a pair of "Yeezy Inspired Slides" that sell for $38.99. Yeezy is exclusively sold by Adidas.
In a statement, Walmart said "The product referenced in the complaint is not sold by Walmart, but rather by third party Marketplace sellers. We take allegations like this seriously and are reviewing the claim. We will respond in court as appropriate after we have been served with the complaint."
Thursday’s suit comes on the heels of a trademark dispute between West and Walmart over a "rays from the sun" logo design West wants to use for Yeezy, but which Walmart says looks too similar to its 13-year-old sun logo.
In response, people close to Yeezy have scoffed at the idea West’s upscale brand — whose shoes typically retail for hundreds of dollars a pair — wanting to piggyback off Walmart’s image.
"Celebrities are regularly photographed wearing Yeezy clothing and footwear and using Yeezy products, which enhances the brand’s popularity and appeal to the general public," according to the Thursday lawsuit. "Some celebs include, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Jay Z, Hailey Baldwin, Gigi, and Bella Hadid, and Snoop Dogg, to name a few."