US-based sports brand Nike is taking on competitor Puma, accusing it of several counts of patent infringement relating to footwear technology.
Nike filed the claim at the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Wednesday, May 3.
According to Nike, Puma is using its Flyknit, Air and cleat assembly technologies, and has refused to stop doing so upon request.
Nike’s Flyknit technology relates to footwear uppers (the part of the shoe that covers the foot) and owns the following US patents protecting the technology: 7,637,032; 8,266,749; 9,078,488; and 9,375,046.
Traditionally, uppers were manufactured by piercing together multiple different materials. However, this method had “certain inefficiencies”, said Nike.
Nike developed the Flyknit by forming uppers from a single knitted material.
The Flyknit combines high strength fibre technology and manufacturing techniques to allow designers to precisely micro-engineer every stitch of the upper. This results in a “seamless sock-like upper”.
Nike alleged that Puma’s Ignite Proknit products first infringed the patents in the knitted footwear in 2015. Puma has since released additional footwear products which Nike claims infringe the patents.
Nike’s Air technology relates to the sole structures of footwear. Nike first launched footwear containing the technology in 1987. The patent relating to this dispute is: “Article of footwear having a fluid-filled bladder with a reinforcing structure” (7,401,420).
According to the claim, Nike Air reduces the weight of the footwear without reducing the wearer’s performance. This is achieved by replacing conventional foam soles with air-filled bags.
Nike alleges that Puma’s “fluid-filled bladder”, called the Jamming, infringes the Nike Air technology due to its construction, such as its “sole structure incorporating a fluid-filled bladder and a reinforcing structure secured to the bladder”.
The last count of patent infringement relates to Nike’s soccer cleat assembly technology, covered by patents 6,973,746 and 9,314,065.
Cleats act as studs to prevent the wearer from slipping. Nike’s cleat assemblies combine “strategically placed cleats, support bars, and sections of varying stiffness to improve flexibility, foot control, balance, and propulsion; while also increasing comfort and reducing fatigue”.
Nike alleged that Puma first infringed the patents when it introduced its evoSPEED SL FG product in 2015 and that it subsequently introduced further products. According to Nike, the assembly of the cleats on some of Puma’s footwear infringes its ‘746 and ‘065 patents.
Nike is seeking a permanent injunction against Puma and is requesting damages.
A spokesperson for Puma said: "Puma perceives that there are no patent infringements in this case. We will do everything to defend ourselves against these accusations. This is not a preliminary injunction and the filed lawsuit will not have an impact on our current collections. Puma respects trademark rights and patents of other companies in general."