Updated at 8:40 p.m. May 14, 2015

Shoe retailer Skechers has publicly responded to claims that it stole the trademark of Terri Kelly, the 52-year-old mother of six who sells flip-flops under the slogan “Yoga Pants for Your Feet.”

Terri Kelly stands with her products on display at Tahoe store. Image via terrykelly.com

“While we ordinarily do not comment on pending litigation, this warrants a response,” a spokeswoman for the Manhattan Beach-based shoe company said Thursday.

“Skechers categorically denies the allegations, and believes this case is nothing more than an attempt to trade on Skechers’ long track record of success,” the rep told Times of San Diego via email. “We look forward to vindicating our position in court.”

On Wednesday, the San Diego-based law firm Fish & Richardson filed suit in federal court against Skechers U.S.A. Inc., alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition by the international shoe company.

“I founded my company in March of 2013 and have worked hard since day one to develop brand recognition and a loyal client base,” says Kelly. “I feel like David fighting Goliath, and it is disheartening to see a big company like Skechers behave in such an unfair and uncompromising manner.”

Terri Kelly complaint against Skechers (PDF)

Kelly, based in Palm Desert, owns the federal trademark registration to “Yoga Pants for Your Feet,” which she began using about a year before Skechers began using the same slogan, the law firm says.

“Kelly came up with the slogan as the perfect way to convey to consumers the comfort and minimalist design of her flip-flops and began using the slogan in January 2014,” said a statement. “Kelly … uses the slogan on her company’s website, through social media and in other forms of advertising and marketing.”

Skechers began using the slogan as early as January 2015 to market its Stretch-Fit Glider shoe, the suit contends.

On her blog, Kelly writes:

My wallet is very small. But my will is very large. That is my trademark and I am going to fight for it. Please support me by using the hashtags #defendourtrademarks #skechers and send a message to Skecher’s that just because they are big does not mean they have the right to grow their company using someone else’s idea, which happens to be protected!

Kelly only recently learned of a commercial being shown on television and online promoting the shoe, the suit says.

“Skechers’ commercial features celebrity and Dancing with the Stars Season 7 winner Brooke Burke-Charvet and prominently uses TerriKelly’s ‘Yoga Pants for Your Feet’ mark to promote its new shoe in the commercial. In addition to the television and YouTube ad, Skechers also uses the slogan online and in social media posts.”

Legal counsel for TerriKelly LLC, issued a cease and desist letter to Skechers in March 2015, but the company continues to use the slogan.

Image from Terri Kelly lawsuit filed May 13, 2015, in San Diego federal court

“It’s unfortunate that a large company like Skechers would choose to market its product in such an illegal manner – and continue to do so even after being informed of TerriKelly’s rights,” states Lisa Martens, a trademark attorney with Fish & Richardson.

“The use of TerriKelly’s federally registered slogan … is a clear violation of trademark law. Despite the fact that it she is a solopreneur with a start-up company, Ms. Kelly has the right to stop anyone from infringing upon her trademark.”

Skechers’ footwear is marketed and sold in over 600 stores worldwide. Skechers owns and operates over 300 retail stores in the United States alone. Skechers U.S.A., Inc. is a publicly traded footwear company with more than $2 billion in net sales for 2014, the laws firm said.

TerriKelly flip-flops are sold at trade shows and festivals as well through the company’s website and through specialty boutiques and online retailers.

The suit was filed in United States District Court Southern District of California and requests that Skechers stop using the slogan and pay unspecified damages to Kelly.

Kelly told Times of San Diego the reason her suit was filed in San Diego is that her attorneys, Martens and Nancy Ly, are with Fish & Richardson’s San Diego office.
 
She says she sells predominantly online, “though we were at [Oceanside] Harbor Days last September.”
 
“I am a woman entrepreneur going for it with everything that I have and I made sure that the business I was building was on solid ground so I filed for a trademark for YOGA PANTS FOR YOUR FEET and I GOT IT,” she said via email. 

“It is registered and it is mine.  Once we were aware that Skechers had begun to use it, we notified them that it was trademarked and asked them to cease and desist but they did not. I am trying to protect my rights and the rights of all the small entrepreneurs out there.”

Skechers has six stores in San Diego County, says the suit, including a factory outlet store in Carlsbad, a retail store in National City, and three factory outlets and a retail store in San Diego.

It has 97 retail and factory outlet locations in California.