After topping Nike’s Jordan Brand as the second most valuable sneaker-maker in the U.S. market, adidas has advanced against Nike on another front. The European Patent Office (“EPO”) appeal board held last month that a Nike patent that covers “vented” sports apparel is invalid. The decision comes after rival adidas opposed Nike’s patent, claiming that one of its own designs first made use of the technology.
The two sportswear giants have been in and out of hearings before the EPO since 2009 when the EPO first approved Nike’s patent (EP 1 746 909), which covers an “Article of apparel utilizing zoned venting and/or other body cooling features or methods.”
After adidas initiated successful opposition proceedings before the EPO in 2013, Nike lodged an appeal, but this was rejected “as the board concurred that ‘the lack of availability of the measurement device mentioned in the independent claims prevents the skilled person from performing and repeating the invention, i.e., from manufacturing the claimed garment.’”
As noted by adidas' counsel, Munich-based firm Bardehle Pagenberg, the EPO appeal board dismissed Nike’s appeal and effectively revoked with the patent-issuing decision in an oral hearing early last month.
Adidas’ win comes amidst what GQ's Matthew Shaer called a “full-scale arms race, poaching designers, signing superstar endorsements, and unveiling space-age technology” enacted by the German sportswear giant “in an attempt to dethrone the king.” With such a cut-throat rivalry in play, it should come as little surprise that the two have been in and out of court all over the world in connection with everything from trade secret-stealing employees (who jumped ship from Nike to adidas) to their knitted sneakers and adidas’ 3-stripe trademark.
You can find a more complete look at Nike and adidas' legal battles right here.