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MSCHF ordered to halt fulfillment for 'Satan Shoes' in Nike lawsuit

NBC News logo NBC News 4/1/2021 Doha Madani and Diana Dasrath
a man wearing a hat and glasses: Lil Nas X holds a pair of Satan Shoes created with the company MSCHF. © MSCHF Lil Nas X holds a pair of Satan Shoes created with the company MSCHF.

A judge has ruled that MSCHF must stop fulfilling orders for its "Satan Shoes" in a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by Nike.

Nike filed for a temporary restraining order Tuesday, asking the court to keep MSCHF from issuing orders using any Nike work and referring to Nike's logos. The ruling is a hit for MSCHF, which sold out of its "Satan Shoes" within minutes of their launch Monday.

MSCHF designed 666 pairs of the sneakers, priced at $1,018, in collaboration with the rapper Lil Nas X. The controversial kicks are modified Nike Air Max 97s decorated with a pentagram pendant and a reference to Luke 10:18, a Bible verse about Satan's fall from heaven.

MSCHF also said there was a single drop of human blood, drawn from its own team, mixed with red ink in the sneakers' soles.

"MSCHF is a conceptual art collective known for interventions that engage fashion, art, tech, and capitalism in various, often unexpected, mediums," MSCHF said in a statement Thursday. "We believe it is better to make art that participates directly in its subject matter; it is stronger to do a thing, than to talk about a thing. MSCHF makes artworks that live directly in the systems they critique, instead of hiding inside whitewalled galleries."

The statement continued: "Satan Shoes started a conversation, while also living natively in its space. It is art created for people to observe, speculate on, purchase, and own."

The release of the "Satan Shoes" coincides with Lil Nas X's latest single, "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," and its accompanying music video. In the video, Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill, is seduced out of what appears to be the Garden of Eden, falls into hell and gives the devil a lap dance.

Critics denounced the shoes as "immoral" and "evil" online following news of its release over the Palm Sunday weekend.

Lil Nas X defended the shoes as the single and the video got increased attention. The music video, which has been viewed more than 50 million times since Friday, offers a metaphor for his journey to coming out as an openly gay man.

Nike filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit Monday, arguing that the shoes diluted its brand because people blamed Nike for them. Nike distanced itself from the shoes' launch, confirming to NBC News over the weekend that it had no involvement with MSCHF or Lil Nas X.

"When the reasonable consumer sees a Nike Swoosh on a shoe or sees the NIKE word mark in advertising for a shoe, it is inevitable that he will believe Nike is the source of that shoe," the company said in a letter to the court Thursday morning.

"MSCHF’s conduct has caused immense confusion about the source of MSCHF’s infringing shoes and tarnished Nike’s brand with an unwarranted association with satanism."

MSCHF clarified in its Thursday statement that they are "not affiliated with Nike."

"We were honestly surprised by the action Nike has taken," MSCHF said in the statement.

MSCHF argued in a letter to the court Wednesday that there was "no threat of imminent or immediate irreparable harm" warranting a temporary restraining order.

"MSCHF has made clear that the Satan Shoes are a collaboration with Lil Nas X, not with Nike," the company said in the letter, adding that its customers are "well aware of MSCHF's approach to art."

Customized sneakers are a sought-after commodity in streetwear, adding an element of exclusiveness to a person's look. MSCHF, based in Brooklyn, New York, is known for its unusual products and viral stunts.

The company previously released a pair of modified Nike Air Max 97s called the "Jesus Shoes," which contained what it described as holy water in its sole drawn from the Jordan River.

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