Sneakers are big business.
This summer, Rutgers Law School became the latest law school to offer an innovative class focusing on the business, legal, and marketing aspects of the sneaker industry.
Taught by intellectual property law expert, Professor John Kettle, the course was open to law students from Rutgers and other schools, along with business and graduate students. The class covered numerous aspects of running a sneaker business – from production, marketing, licensing, sales, to copyright, trademark, right of publicity, and patent and trade secret issues.
Rather than teaching solely from a text book, Kettle’s class used a hypothetical client to respond to contemporary issues in the legal and business world. “Based on the client’s business plan, the class discussed alternative business structures, ownership and conflicts of interest throughout the entire process, employee versus independent contractor pros and cons, design, manufacturing and distribution agreements, relevant intellectual property rights that would be of importance throughout all phases of the operation of the business, including how to best obtain, maintain, and protect the IP rights (especially when counterfeiting occurs.),” Kettle explained.
S. Deven Amin, a 3L Rutgers Law student, said the class was useful in learning the business and legal aspects of running a sneaker business, “It teaches you both the legal side of sneaker law, including patent trademark and copyright laws, as well as the business aspects of it, how do you form your sneaker business from beginning to end, what is the product, demand, how will we market this.”
Other students said they appreciated how Kettle used real examples from the sneaker industry and did not rely just on the course book for lessons and discussions. “It was not what I expected, in the sense it was really applicable to all businesses, especially if you want to be an entrepreneur,” said Ashley Dabb, who graduated this year from Rutgers Law School. “We were reading something someone who is not a lawyer could understand¬—business formation, pitfalls to watch out for. This was more engaging and exciting, and in some ways, more relevant.”
The class met virtually over several sessions this summer and included lectures, class discussions, problem-solving and real-world examples. Amin said Kettle began every class with a discussion of current industry trends and news regarding sneaker law. “That was one way to open up every class with a talking point,” she said.
But the class wasn’t simply a legal course. Kettle touched on several points about running a sneaker business, including creating business plans and protecting against counterfeiting. He said, “The marketing portion of the course reviewed and discussed the many alternatives available, such as print, TV, motion picture, and social media. This discussion also included the use of influencers, and the business and legal concerns when doing so.”
Matthew Salerno, who also graduated from Rutgers Law this year, said the material coordinated with other business law he studied as part of the Rutgers Entrepreneurship Clinic. “It was beneficial to put it all together, see how business situations play out and draw on foundational learning we’ve done in Intellectual Property (IP) and contracts.”