Few streetwear brands have achieved the level of hype commanded by Japanese label A Bathing Ape, also known as BAPE. Since its arrival in the United States in the early 2000s, it has collaborated with high-profile artists, including Pharell, Lil Wayne and Kid Cudi. The 2007 hit song, “Crank Dat,” by Soulja Boy, contained the line, “haters get mad ‘cause I got me some Bathing Apes.” Soulja Boy could be seen wearing a pair of bright yellow and red BAPE STAs in the music video for the song. That music video has over 556 million views on YouTube.
From the outset, the BAPE sneaker line was compared with the Nike Air Force 1. Yet Nike, a brand which itself became a household name through celebrity advertising, took no formal action against BAPE to enforce or protect its trademarks until January 2023, when it filed a complaint against BAPE (USAPE LLC) in the Southern District of New York alleging trademark infringement, along with various other associated claims. This article examines the potential effects and dangers of a wait-and-see approach in trademark enforcement.