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SPORTS STEP CITES TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT ON THE PART OF REEBOK; REEBOK DEFEAT COULD BE VERY COSTLY

SPORTS STEP CITES TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT ON THE PART OF REEBOK;
 REEBOK DEFEAT COULD BE VERY COSTLY
 ATLANTA, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing trademark infringement and unfair competition on the part of Reebok International (NYSE: RBK), Sports Step, Inc., the pioneer in step training, has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Reebok.
 This is the latest step in Sports Step's legal battle to protect the adjustable platforms it manufactures for use in step training.
 "Reebok is trying to confuse consumers with similar logos and products. Sports Step filed this action to stop the use of the 'STEP Reebok' logo on shoes, clothing and videos and to end public confusion. We're also seeking the preliminary injunction to force compliance with an agreement that was negotiated just last month to not use our product in Reebok advertisements," said Richard Boggs, president of Sports Step. "Once again, 'sneakers' appears to be not only a product that Reebok makes, but part of their corporate culture as well."
 Sports Step seeks to prevent Reebok from using the "STEP" and "STEP Reebok" logos, and from using any other confusingly similar imitation of Sports Step's "THE STEP" registered trademarks. Sports Step also seeks to prevent Reebok from disseminating advertisements or promotional materials that refer to Sport Step or that display or refer to any aerobic platforms promoted or sold by Sports Step. Sports Step believes the injunction is necessary to lessen the consumer confusion resulting from the termination of the companies' previous business relationship and to prevent irreparable harm to Sports Step and the public.
 On March 25, Sports Step and Reebok agreed that Reebok would no longer include in any of its advertising, promotional materials or seminars any references to, likeness or depiction of a Sports Step's aerobic platform, or any reference to Sports Step. Only eight days after the signing of this agreement, Reebok stated that it intended to continue to run national print and television advertisements that show persons exercising on aerobic platforms sold by Sports Step under the "THE STEP" registered trademark.
 Sports Step's suit results from the disintegration of a cooperative business relationship between it and Reebok International. For two years, the companies used each other's trademarks and promoted each other's products to jointly promote the concept of step aerobic exercising.
 Sports Step's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, outlines Reebok's actions as it moved from business associate to competitor in the rapidly growing market for adjustable platforms -- a market that Sports Step created and has worked unceasingly to develop. This sector of the sports and fitness industry had sales estimated at over $100 million in 1991, and sales of over $200 million are predicted by 1993.
 The upcoming trial will determine whether Reebok materially breached the licensing agreement, whether the agreement is terminated and whether Sports Step is excused from future performance of the agreement. Sports Step is now being forced to seek the preliminary injunction because of Reebok's pre-trial actions.
 After two years of cooperation and cross-promotion, in early February 1992 Reebok announced that it would sell an adjustable aerobic platform called the "STEP Reebok Home Exercise System." Thus, Sports Step and Reebok are now direct competitors for the sale of aerobic exercise equipment, exercise programs and related products and services. This led to Sports Step's termination of the licensing agreement and its suit against Reebok. On March 16, Sports Step notified Reebok that Reebok's right to use Sports Step's intellectual property, including Sports Step's STEP mark and logos would expire on April 11 (60 days after termination of the licensing agreement) and that any use by Reebok of Sports Step's intellectual property after that date would be unauthorized.
 Sports Step has stopped placing Reebok's trademarks on its products and stopped advertising and promoting Reebok programs and products. However, Reebok has not made any effort to distinguish its aerobic exercise products from those of Sports Step and, to the contrary, has pursued a course of conduct which will aggravate consumer confusion as to the source, origin and sponsorship of products sold by Reebok and Sports Step. "Reebok is trading on the consumer confidence in Sports Step's products, and is trying to take over a product line that we invented and have worked unceasingly to promote and grow. We believe the judicial system will tell Reebok that its actions are improper," Boggs stated.
 Although the license agreement has been terminated by Sports Step, Reebok has continued to promote, advertise and sell its aerobic products under "STEP" and "STEP Reebok" logos that are nearly identical to Sports Step's distinctive and stylized "THE STEP" registered trademarks and family of related "STEP" marks. Moreover, Reebok has ignored the March 25 agreement that it would not include aerobic platforms sold by Sports Step in Reebok advertising and promotional materials.
 Sports Step is the owner of two federally registered trademarks consisting of the stylized "THE STEP" logo, one for its exercise platforms and the other for clothing. Since October 1989, Sports Step has spent over $2 million in promoting and advertising the aerobic platforms and related products sold under Sports Step's STEP marks and logos. Sports Step, with 1991 sales of over $19 million, is recognized as the leader in adjustable platforms in the aerobic market.
 In the summer of 1989, Sports Step adopted and began using the trademark "THE STEP" to denote its newly invented adjustable aerobic platform. Concurrently, Sports Step also adopted and began using a distinctive stylized "THE STEP" logo. Since October 1989, Sports Step has extensively and continuously marketed, promoted, advertised, distributed and sold adjustable aerobic platforms and related products throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries under its distinctive "THE STEP" mark and logo.
 During the 1989 negotiations which led to the licensing agreement, Reebok was seeking a trademark to identify and promote the training and choreography for the new aerobic programs it was developing. While considering the name "Bench Blast," Reebok became aware of Sports Step's adoption and use of the distinctive "THE STEP" mark and logo. Reebok then decided to use the term "STEP Reebok" and a stylized "STEP Reebok" logo to identify, promote and market its step aerobic exercise routines and training programs.
 The stylized "STEP" portion of the "STEP Reebok" logo was (and is) nearly identical to the "STEP" portion of Sports Step's logo, in that both are in uppercase block letter form with the major difference being that the "E" in Sports Step's "STEP" is depicted by three horizontal bars that look like descending steps, while the "E" in Reebok's "STEP" is depicted by three horizontal lines that look like ascending steps. Moreover, the "STEP" portion of the "STEP Reebok" logo is significantly larger and more noticeable than the "Reebok" portion.
 Reebok has used and has indicated that it will continue to use "STEP" and "STEP Reebok" marks and logos in its advertising, marketing and promotion. Because of the companies' past business relationship, substantial consumer confusion regarding the source, origin, sponsorship or affiliation of Sports Step products and Reebok products is inevitable. Since Feb. 19, Sports Step has documented numerous instances of actual consumer confusion, including several in which consumers with questions or comments about Reebok products were directed to Sports Step by Reebok's own customer service representatives.
 "It is apparent that Reebok is trying to take advantage of the situation and market a similar product to ours, using similar marks and logos," Boggs stated. "Sports Step has had no choice but to try to protect itself and consumers through its legal actions. We are confident the judicial process will protect us."
 Additional information regarding this issue can be found in the complete judicial filings, which are available upon request.
 -0- 4/30/92
 /CONTACT: Dean Trevelino of A. Brown-Olmstead Associates, 404- 659-0919, for Sports Step/
 (RBK) CO: Sports Step, Inc.; Reebok International ST: Georgia IN: LEI SU:


BN-BR -- AT004 -- 4769 04/30/92 09:09 EDT
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Date:Apr 30, 1992
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