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Nike sues New Balance and Skechers over patent infringement

Sports apparel giant Nike is suing two of its competitors, arguing that New Balance and Skechers are wrongfully using technology that Nike developed for making shoes light-weight and strong. 

Nike filed two patent infringement lawsuits on Monday, one in federal court in Massachusetts against New Balance and another federal suit in California against Skechers. The cases come after Nike sued Puma in 2018, Adidas in 2021 and Lululemon this year over the same issue. 

Nike's lawsuit focuses on Flyknit, a special type of fiber the company developed and which it uses for the so-called upper of shoes, or the parts of a shoe above the sole and which cover the foot. Flyknit is a high-strength fiber that supports the user's feet but is also lightweight and breathable, according to Nike

Nike said in court documents that Flyknit took more than a decade of research to develop and helps the company reduce materials waste. Nike has saved 3.5 million pounds of waste since Flyknit's launch and diverted 182 million plastic bottles from nine landfills by switching to recycled polyester in all Nike Flyknit shoes, according to a 2016 analysis from New York University.

Nike said in court documents that the company has sent cease-and-desist letters to New Balance this year regarding Flyknit, but alleged that "New Balance's infringement is accelerating in breadth and scope despite notice from Nike."

"Due to the success of Nike's Flyknit, many of Nike's competitors have copied and made unauthorized use of Nike's Flyknit technologies," Nike lawyers claim in the Skechers lawsuit. "Skechers has likewise used Nike's Flyknit technologies without authorization."

Flyknit patents

Nike said in its lawsuits that it owns the Flyknit technology through nine patents filed between September 2012 and July 2023. Nike accused New Balance of using Flyknit to sell certain footwear, including the Fresh Foam X 1080 v12, the Fresh Foam X Vongo v5, the FuelCell SuperComp Trainer and the Tekela v4 Magia FG. In the lawsuit against Skechers, Nike alleged Skechers infringed upon Flyknit technology by selling its Ultra Flex 3.0, the Glide Step Sparkle and other shoes. 

Nike didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. In a statement e-mailed to CBS MoneyWatch, Skechers declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

New Balance told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement Tuesday that it "fully respects competitors' intellectual property rights, but Nike does not own the exclusive right to design and produce footwear by traditional manufacturing methods that have been used in the industry for decades."

Nike wants a federal judge to block New Balance and Skechers from selling shoes with copied Flyknit material. In the lawsuits, Nike has also asked for "an award of damages," but didn't specify a dollar amount. 

Nike settled its Flyknit lawsuit against Adidas in August 2022 and settled its Puma case in January 2020. Nike's case against Lululemon, which began in January, is ongoing. 

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