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Nike faces patent infringement lawsuit

Written by Jane Coyle on 03 April 2007

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Reebok International Ltd. has filed a lawsuit against Nike, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, claiming Nike infringed on a patent arising from Reebok’s collapsible shoe technology. The complaint identifies several Nike men’s and women’s shoes that

infringe upon Reebok’s patented flexible sole technology, which also allows shoes to be collapsed for travel or for packaging. Infringing products include 11 different Nike shoes marketed under the “Free,” “Free Flex,” “Free Zen & Now,” “Free Trainer,” and “Free Trail” product names.

The Reebok patent protects technological design features of a system that includes flexible materials in the product’s sole. The suit alleges that despite Reebok’s patent protection, Nike “wilfully and intentionally” developed shoes that use Reebok’s technology. Diana Wainrib, Chief Counsel for Reebok said: “Reebok is a recognized innovator with a commitment to continuous improvement of footwear technology for the benefit of our consumers. We will act to protect our research and development efforts whenever companies try to claim Reebok technology as their own.

In January of this year, the U.S. patent was issued for Reebok’s flexible sole shoe technology. This technology is part of a research and development legacy that includes The Pump, an air-filled bladder first introduced in 1989 that can be manually or automatically inflated; the DMX air-cushioning system in use since 1996, and, more recently, KFS, a kinetic fit system in which stretchable material in the shoe allows panels to move independently to improve fit throughout the gait. Reebok International Ltd., headquartered in Canton, Massachusetts, is a leading worldwide designer, marketer and distributor of sports, fitness and casual footwear, apparel and equipment. A subsidiary of the adidas Group, the company operates under the multiple divisions of the Reebok brand, Reebok-CCM Hockey and the Sports Licensed Division.

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