On Thursday, May 3rd, Beaverton, OR-based sneaker and athletic apparel maker Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) filed a suit alleging claims of patent infringement against German footwear maker Puma (ETR:PUM) in the District of Massachusetts. In its complaint, Nike accuses Puma of infringing upon patents held by Nike which cover elements of Nike’s Flyknit, Air and cleat assembly technologies.
In this case, Nike is asserting four patents covering its Flyknit footwear uppers, which are formed from a single knitted material while providing different textures or properties to different areas of the uppers. These patents include:
- U.S. Patent No. 7637032, titled Footwear Structure with Textile Upper Member. Issued to Nike in December 2009, which covers an article of footwear having an upper member with an exterior portion substantially constructed from knitted textile material and having a first region with stability ribs.
- U.S. Patent No. 8266749, titled Article of Footwear Having a Textile Upper. Issued in September 2012, it claims a method of manufacturing an article of footwear which involves simultaneously knitting a textile element with a surrounding textile structure, removing the knitted element from the textile structure and incorporating the knitted element onto the article of footwear.
- U.S. Patent No. 9078488, titled Article of Footwear Incorporating a Lenticular Knit Structure. It claims an article of footwear with a knitted element having a lenticular knit structure which provides different visual effects when viewed at various angles.
- U.S. Patent No. 9375046, titled Article of Footwear Incorporating a Knitted Component with Inlaid Tensile Elements and Method of Assembly. It covers an article having a plurality of webbed areas configured to move between neutral and extended positions in response to an applied force.
In 2015, three years after Nike introduced sneakers utilizing Flyknit technology, Puma introduced IGNITE-branded sneakers which incorporated a fully knit upper. Nike alleges that various elements of the IGNITE line of footwear infringe upon its patents covering Flyknit technology.
Nike is also asserting one patent related to its Nike Air technology, a footwear sole structure designed to protect an athlete’s joints and muscles from impact forces. U.S. Patent No. 7401420, titled Article of Footwear Having a Fluid-Filled Bladder with a Reinforcing Structure. Issued in July 2008, it claims an article of footwear with a sole structure having a bladder enclosing a fluid that provides an outward force on a first surface and a reinforcing structure extending around a portion of the bladder. Nike alleges that Puma first began infringing on the ‘420 patent in November 2017 when it released Jamming footwear that incorporated a fluid-filled bladder for foot support.
Finally, Nike is asserting patents covering a third technology developed by the company: cleat assemblies for athletic sneakers that improve foot control and propulsion while reducing fatigue. In this case, Nike is asserting the following two patents on cleat assemblies:
- U.S. Patent No. 6973746, titled Soccer Shoe Having Independently Supported Lateral and Medial Sides. Issued in December 2005, it claims an article of footwear with a cleat assembly including a base having medial and lateral sides, a plurality of downward extending ground engaging members, support bars on the medial and lateral sides and stiffened sections along both support bars which generally correspond to a midfoot portion.
- U.S. Patent No. 9314065, titled Article of Footwear with Base Plate Having Structure and Studs. Issued in April 2016, it covers an article of footwear having a base plate with a structure designed to moderate stud pressure and enhance support during the first step of sprinting, quick directional changes and backwards movement.
Nike alleges that Puma’s infringement of its cleat assembly patents began in 2015 with the introduction of evoSPEED cleated footwear. Other Puma footwear, including the ONE 18.1 Syn FG and FUTURE Netfit FG/AG footwear, also allegedly infringe upon the cleat assembly patents. Nike is also alleging willful infringement of all asserted patents, accusing Puma of both continuing to market infringing products after being made aware of the potential infringement and introducing new infringing footwear to the market after the notice of infringement.