Nike, the Oregon based sportswear company, is the largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. Nike was founded on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. On May 4, 1971, the company changed their name to Nike after the Greek Goddess of victory.

Puma, the German-based company, is the sixth leading sportswear manufacturer in the world. The company was founded in 1924 by two brothers, Rudolf Dassler and Adolf Dassler, and was originally called Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. However, in 1948, the two brothers split forming two separate entities, Adidas and PUMA. Both companies are based in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Nike alleges that Puma infringed on a number of their patents. Nike has 800 utility patents relating to their Air Technology and 300 more relating to their Flyknit Technology. The patents in question are as follows:

U.S. Patent No. 7,637,032  covers footwear that is a knitted stitch less textile with a smooth and non-bulky joint that is constructed from a textile material with stability ribs.

U.S. Patent No. 8,266,749 claims the method of producing an article of footwear with two separate areas. The first is formed of a stitch configuration and the second is a different stitch configuration that may have warp knitting and weft knitting to form a textile element.

U.S. Patent No. 9,078,488  describes the properties of incorporating a knitted component that has color-shift properties. This can be created by one or more lenticular knit structures with different colors.

U.S. Patent No. 9,375,046 covers an article with a formed unitary knit construction that includes tubular rib structures. The plurality of the tube rib structures are overlapping knit layers and a central area that is unsecured between the two knit layers.  

These patents all relate to Nike’s patented Flyknit technology. According to Nike’s website, their Flyknit technology, introduced in 2012, “uses high-strength fibers to create lightweight uppers with targeted areas of support, stretch, and breathability.” An upper is the section of the shoe that is above the sole and covers the foot. Puma introduced their own line of sneakers, the IGNITE line, which, according to Puma is a “fully knit upper” that “gives it lightweight breathability, [and] an incredibly comfortable fit.” Nike claims the technology behind IGNITE is a replica of Flyknit and, thus, infringes on Nike’s patents.

Nike is also suing Puma for infringement of its Nike Air technology. This technology is specifically designed to protect athletes’ joints and muscles and is covered in U.S. Patent No. 7,401,420. It claims an article of footwear in one sole structure having a bladder enclosing fluid that provides reinforcement extending around the bladder. According to Nike, Puma began infringing on the ‘420 patent in 2017 with the release of their Jamming footwear.

Lastly, Nike is claiming patent infringement on the assembly of cleats for athletic sneakers. Nike has two patents that cover this technology – U.S. Patent No. 6,973,746 and U.S. Patent No. 9,314,065. Patent ‘746 covers the assembly of cleats having a base with medial and lateral sides, with ground engaging members and rigid medial and lateral support bars which correspond to a midfoot section. Patent ‘065 covers an article of footwear having a base plate with a structure designed to disperse stud pressure and enhance support during rapid changes in the direction and movement of the foot.

Nike claimed Puma’s infringement of its cleat assembly began in 2015 when Puma launched evoSPEED. However, Nike believes it goes further than evoSPEED and includes ONE 18.1 Syn FG and FUTURE Netfit FG/AG footwear.

As stated in the complaint, “[Nike] brings inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world, by investing heavily in research, design, and development.” Puma, on the other hand, “has forgone independent innovation and is instead using Nike’s technologies without permission.”

Nike sent Puma a cease-and-desist letter, but Puma continued to market their shoes. Puma also allegedly continued to introduce new footwear that further infringed on Nike’s patents.

Nike is seeking monetary damages, including “an award of damages adequate to compensate Nike for Puma’s infringements of the Nike patents that have occurred, together with prejudgment and post-judgment interest and costs.”

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patent, trademark, or copyright matters and would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys please contact us.