A new sneaker saga is bound to play out in court. Nike filed a patent infringement complaint Thursday against Puma North America, alleging that Puma has “forgone independent innovation and is using Nike’s technologies without permission.”
The three innovations in question are Nike’s Flyknit, Air and cleat assembly technologies.
In the filing, Nike said over three years after it introduced Flyknit technology, its pioneering footwear upper made with a single knitted material, Puma began using the technology, first with the Ignite Proknit in October 2015. The shoe was followed by additional knit footwear products including Puma’s Ignite Speed Netfit, the Mostro Bubble Knit and the Jamming.
Nike pointed out that the knit footwear was Puma’s attempt to join the “knit sneaker craze” it believes it created with the introduction of Flyknit in 2012. Nike went on to say that Puma is promoting and selling its infringing footwear at retail stores throughout the U.S.
Puma is also under fire for allegedly using one of Nike’s signature technologies, Nike Air. The technology dates back to 1987 and is now incorporated across the brand’s performance and lifestyle footwear categories.
Air technology is based on “Air Sole” units located in the sole structure of the footwear. The units are tough, flexible bags filled with gas or fluid that provide shock absorption and cushioning benefits. Nike complained that Puma introduced the same “fluid-filled bladder” design in the Jamming model in November 2017.
Additionally, Nike said Puma is copying its patented soccer clear assembly technology, which has been improved upon since it debuted in 1971. Nike’s cleat assemblies combine strategically placed cleats, support bars and sections of varying stiffness to improve flexibility, control, balance and comfort. Puma is accused of replicating these properties in its evoSpeed SL collection.
In the filing, Nike said Puma’s infringement has been willful, intentional and deliberate, noting that Puma refuses its requests to stop using the technologies. Nike is seeking a permenant injunction against Puma.
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.”
Nike is adamant about protecting its successful Flyknit technology. The company sued Skechers in 2015 for eight copycat knit footwear styles. Nike also took rival Adidas to court in 2012 for its knit footwear collection, Primeknit. However, a judge ruled in favor of Adidas, allowing the company to continue its production of Primeknit sneakers.