Crocs are in the fight of their life.
For years the plastic clog maker has been suing rivals, including USA Dawgs, which makes a lookalike clog, claiming that Dawgs and others have been infringing on Crocs’ design patent.
But late last week the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected Crocs’ patent argument, which is a major blow to the already struggling footwear company. The decision was first reported by Footwear News.
The government agency essentially said the Crocs design is not original, that a second company had applied for a similar design patent a year before Crocs.
Crocs told Footwear News that it plans to appeal the decision and will “continue to aggressively enforce its intellectual property portfolio against those who unfairly trade off of Crocs’ goodwill and reputation.”
The fight between Crocs and Dawgs dates back to 2006 and escalated this year when Dawgs sued its rival alleging that Crocs was copying one of its designs, a Z-strap sandal, and accused its rival of corporate sabotage.
Amid declining sales, Colorado-based Crocs is closing 160 stores over the next two years, slimming down to 400 stores.
In the most recent quarter, the company revenue declined 3.3 percent to $313 million, which was an improvement over the first quarter, in which sales dipped by more than 10 percent.
Its brightly colored shoes were ubiquitous a decade ago, helped by the likes of celebrity chef Mario Batali, who seemed not to own any other brands. But their popularity inspired copycats and lawsuits.
Crocs did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.