Nike Attacks Puma In Patent Case Over Flyknit, Air And Cleat Assembly

The amount of money that shoe and apparel companies spend on protection of their intellectual property is astonishing, whether it be related to trademark infringement, patent infringement or otherwise. Further, a number of cases in the space involve large entities battling each other over use of what is at least deemed by one party to be proprietary.

That is certainly true with the most recent patent infringement filing by Nike NKE +1.82%, Inc., which on May 3, 2018 filed a patent infringement complaint against Puma North America, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Nike is alleging that Puma has “forgone independent innovation” and is using Nike’s technologies without permission.

Specifically, Nike claims that Puma is using its Flyknit, Air and cleat assembly technologies, has been demanded to cease such use and has refused to comply.

As to the Flyknit technology, Nike says that through years of research, design and development, it invented the novel and non-obvious ways to form uppers (the portion of the shoe that covers the foot and is above the sole structure) from a single knitted material while providing different textures or properties to different areas, which became known as the Flyknit. It is a “featherweight, form-fitting, and virtually seamless sock-like upper, scientifically tuned to provide areas of support, flexibility, and breathability where athletes need them most,” says Nike.

The brand introduced the Flyknit footwear in early 2012 with the Flyknit Racer and Flyknit Trainer+ and the technology has become a key part of the company’s growth. In fact, Nike owns over 300 issued utility patents related to its Flyknit technology. Four of those patents are at issue in the current dispute against Puma.

For instance, Nike is complaining about Puma’s IGNITE Proknit, which has been promoted as having a “fully knit upper” that “gives it lightweight breathability, an incredibly comfortable fit, and fresh style.” Nike also complains of the IGNITE Speed Netfit, the Mostro Bubble Knit and the Jamming as using Nike’s Flyknit technology that Nike claims to be covered by its patents.

Separately, Nike believes that its Air Sole structure, created in 1987 and innovated ever since, is being infringed by Puma. The technology that is intended to reduce the weight of footwear and provide cushioning benefits, is allegedly being used without permission by Puma through its Jamming that contains a fluid-filled bladder.

Finally, Nike complains that Puma is infringing on Nike’s soccer cleat assembly technology on various products including the evoSPEED SL line.

Overall, it is a massive lawsuit that seeks relief for claimed infringement across a wide array of footwear. It is much more standard for companies to focus on one particular type of patent infringement at a time, but here it appears that Nike is interested in throwing the kitchen sink at Puma. Maybe it is a matter of kicking Puma while it is down, as Puma’s chief executive recently said that revenue growth in 2018 would be “a little bit tricky,” commenting on what he sees as a tough U.S. retail environment.


Source Forbes

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