Fashion Law

Flyknit swoosh v. 3 stripes Primeknit… legal use of yarn stretch or illegal patent theft?

Nike stomps on Adidas for copying its new sneaker 

Oh Adidas, first those unfortunate shackle shoes, now an alleged copy? Well, if you believe that any press is good press then I guess Adidas is golden!

Nike Flyknit vs Adidas Primeknit

Fashion Law Issue:

While the shoes above are unlikely to be confused for one another, the issue here is not whether the shoes will be confused but whether the technology behind the two are the same. In this case Nike, Inc alleges that Adidas infringed on Nike’s one continuous knit top shoe design, which is a patented technology.

Case background:

Nike’s Flyknit shoe was released in February 2012 along with other products showcased to be released in conjunction with the Olympic games. The Adidas adiZero Primeknit, released July 2012 was also promoted with the Olympics. It probably annoyed Nike that Adidas was the official apparel sponsor for the Olympics and was promoting a shoe designed like its latest creation.

Nike filed an application with the District Court in Nuremberg for an interim injunction against Adidas for patent infringement.

Ruling:

The court granted Nike an interim injunction against the Adidas Primeknit. Consequently, Adidas must now cease manufacturing and distribution of the shoe in Germany.

In hopes of seeing the shoe in person to comment on similarities, I did a scan at nearby stores in Germany before writing this post but I was unable to find the sneaker. I did however find some scary trademark infringement I will share on social media, so the whole trip was not a bust. 😉

Why is this sneaker just not like the others?
The entire upper is made in one piece. This design is different from usual sneaker designs, which are composed of multiple pieces sewn together. When Nike released the shoe, executives called the shoe revolutionary for its design and reduction of cutting room floor waste.
 
How did Adidas get inspired?
According to Adidas group,

“It all started in 2010 with a trip to the ‘techtextil’ fair in Frankfurt, Germany. There, the two of us spotted a knitted glove on display. It was made of thermoplastic fuse yarns which had been finished in a way that the glove was both flexible and stable. It sparked this idea in us that we could use the same technology on a shoe.”

This idea led to the creation of a limited edition collection of Primeknit Running shoes released in Germany, along with the launch of the Olympics.

How did Nike get inspired?
According to Nike,
Potential verdict:
The issue with this shoe technology patent may seem to come down to which seamless shoe came first because the U.S. has a first to invent system, but the case is in Germany and as is practice in Europe, Germany has a first to file system.

A first to file type of patent system means that patent authorities will not check who is the first and true inventor of a technology in question. (Yes, this makes patent trolls happy). In the U.S. first to create system the winner would be the person who can prove that their invention came first (unlike copyright where it may be okay to have the same product so long as the materials in question were created independent of one another).

Check out some of the Nike Flyknit and Adidas Primeknit sneakers:

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