The allegations center around Nike’s patented Flyknit technology, a revolutionary knitted fiber that the company claims to have developed over a decade to create lightweight, supportive shoes while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns related to waste reduction in production.
The lawsuits, lodged in federal courts in Massachusetts and California, assert that both New Balance and Skechers have incorporated Flyknit into their shoe designs, violating Nike’s patents.
Specifically, New Balance is accused of utilizing Flyknit in its Tekela, FuelCell, Fresh Foam, and Furon lines, while Skechers allegedly integrated the technology into various models, including Slip-Ins, Ultra Flex, and Glide Step shoes.
Nike claims it has previously informed New Balance of its alleged infringement, accusing the company of refusing to cease using Flyknit and even escalating its infringing activities.
Similarly, Nike alleges that Skechers has unlawfully adopted its technology, marking the latest chapter in what Nike claims is a recurrent pattern of intellectual property theft.
While Adidas settled its patent disputes with Nike in 2022, and Puma did so in 2020, the ongoing case against Lululemon underscores the persisting challenges in protecting innovative technologies in the competitive sportswear market.
The significance of Flyknit in sustainable innovation was underscored in a 2016 case study conducted by New York University’s Center for Sustainable Business.
The study hailed Flyknit as a “fundamental breakthrough in sustainable innovation,” acknowledging Nike’s adoption of a method that employs one continuous woven thread to construct shoes, reducing waste and manufacturing waste by 80%.
Responding to the allegations, New Balance emphasized that Nike does not hold exclusive rights to traditional manufacturing methods utilized in the industry for decades.
Skechers, in a statement to CBS News, declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.
Beyond seeking an injunction to block the sales of alleged infringing shoes, Nike is pursuing an unspecified amount in damages from both New Balance and Skechers.
The company’s success in settling similar cases with Adidas and Puma underscores its commitment to safeguarding what it deems a “game-changing” technology.
As the legal saga unfolds, the sportswear industry faces broader questions about the impact of patent disputes on innovation and sustainability.
Nike’s determination to defend its Flyknit technology indicates the high stakes involved in protecting intellectual property in an industry that thrives on groundbreaking advancements.