Protect the swoosh at all costs. That seems to be the mantra running around Nike HQ. Over the past year, Nike brass has shown that they will spare no expense when protecting their IP, having filed lawsuits against Bape, Kool Kiy, Lulu Lemon, StockX, and John Geiger, to name a few. Now, sneaker industry moguls New Balance and Sketchers can add their names to the list of those sued by Nike for patent infringement.
Nike has officially filed paperwork in the U.S. District courts of California and Massachusetts against Sketchers and New Balance over what they feel is an unsanctioned use of their technology. The technology in question is Nike's Flyknit material, for which they were issued a patent in 2012. The Flyknit material uses high-strength fibers to create lightweight, breathable uppers for many footwear models. Nike claims to have developed the breakthrough textile by studying their 40+ years of footwear data and modifying the Flyknit application depending on its discipline of use (basketball, running, soccer, etc). Nike has previously filed and settled suits with Adidas and Puma for infringement relating to the Flyknit and has ongoing litigation against Lulu Lemon for the same reason.
To protect their technology, Nike named dozens of Sketchers that infringed on the materials and more than 20 New Balance. Exhibits in the filings showed that New Balance used the alleged Flyknit-like material on a number of cleats and as part of their Fresh Foam line. Nike also stated that they attempted to contact New Balance to resolve the issue amicably but were met with resistance, ultimately worsening the matter.
In response to the lawsuit, New Balance stated, "New Balance fully respects competitors' intellectual property rights, but Nike does not own the exclusive right to design and produce footwear by traditional manufacturing methods that have been used in the industry for decades. We will defend ourselves against Nike's attempts to enforce its patents beyond their lawful scope."
Lawsuits seem to be all but commonplace in today's sneaker world, as Adidas and New Balance both have ongoing suits of their own. Check out our Twitter and Instagram for more updates from the sneaker courtroom and all the latest updates.
Image via Nike