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Lil Nas X and MSCHF appear to have purchased a bunch of Nikes and modified them by changing the color, embroidering them with writing, and adding drops of human blood to the soles. When they marketed them as "Satan Shoes," Nike sued MSCHF for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and trademark dilution.

I'm sure Nike has spectacular lawyers, so I assume its claims are much stronger than I would have otherwise assumed. While I understand their reluctance to be associated with Satanism or bloody sneakers, I'm having trouble understanding why the buyer of a trademarked product would be unable to modify and resell it.

I assume that if I bought a Ford Mustang and dropped a Toyota Yaris engine into it, it takes away from the central attraction of a Mustang, but does that mean I can no longer sell it? What if I just paint it a shade of red other than what Ford uses? What if I add a pentagram window sticker?

To what extent does the trademark holder have the right to control how buyers modify and sell its products? How do those rights apply to the Satan Shoes case?

EDIT: I'm looking for answers that include citations to relevant case law.

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  • I'll have to check the sources I have, but I do know that a judge has permitted the seizure of the products from MSCHF which Nike was not asking for in pre-trial motions, which is not a good thing. I'm not sure the car analogy is significantly different since your selling them after market and presumably either as a custom order or to fit some rare niche of putting (what I assume to be) underperformance engines into muscle cars. I believe MSCHF did marketing that would possibly allow patrons to believe these shoes were released by Nike Themselves, which Nike has some problems with. – hszmv Apr 5 at 16:13
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    Are you representing to potential buyers that the Ford-with-Yaris-engine is a Ford? If so, I would expect that to be obviously a violation of the Ford trademark. When you buy a Ford, you're not buying just a Ford chassis. – Acccumulation Apr 5 at 16:39
  • Assume there have been no material misrepresentions. – bdb484 Apr 5 at 17:00
  • @hszmv which accounts to one pair of shoes, as all others already had been out on delivery on march 29th. – Trish Apr 5 at 20:04
  • "calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorized or approved this product" sounds more than sufficient all by itself. No one would complain to Ford that the Yaris-powered Mustang is underpowered. ¶ Both are blatant marketing gimmicks, but one is saying "pay extra for something not nearly as good as the original" while the other is saying "pay extra for something better". It's not the same situation at all. – Ray Butterworth Apr 6 at 0:35
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Very strong

You can see in the photograph that the Satan’s Shoes have Nike’s trademark “swoosh” clearly visible. A reasonable person could easily be confused that the Satan’s Shoe is a Nike product. That’s the essence of trademark infringement.

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