Skechers makes progress in Adidas patent case
In two decisions this week, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon in Portland, Oregon said Skechers did not willfully infringe two Adidas patents by selling its less expensive "Mega Blade" sneakers, and denied Adidas' request for a preliminary injunction to halt sales.
In its lawsuit last July, the German company said Skechers copied "leaf spring" elements of its Springblade midsole, meant to propel runners forward and improve performance.
It said this enabled Skechers to get a free ride on its technology without the development costs, and harmed Adidas' reputation and market share by cutting into Springblade's pricing power, "coolness" and "cachet."
Adidas had launched Springblade in 2013, at $180 a pair.
Simon, however, found no willful infringement because Skechers began selling Mega Blade sneakers one year before the Adidas patents were issued in May 2016.
The judge also said an injunction was inappropriate because Adidas did not show it faced irreparable harm without one, or that it was likely to win the case.
"Adidas's evidence of irreparable injury is too conclusory and speculative," and the company "fails to make a persuasive showing that the Mega Blade shoe has had an appreciable adverse effect on the Springblade shoe," Simon wrote.
The court also stayed the remainder of Adidas' patent infringement claims, essentially putting a halt to the lawsuit. The judge sent the remaining patent issues to review with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The PTAB will evaluate the strength of Adidas' patents and look at whether Skechers infringed on that technology. Sending the case to the PTAB is a challenge Adidas will have a hard time overcoming.
In the order, the judge wrote, “81 percent of [PTAB review proceedings] result in invalidation of at least some of the challenged claims, and 65 percent invalidated all of the challenged claims.”
Michael Greenberg, Skechers' president, said the Manhattan Beach, California-based company was pleased with the decisions.
"Skechers respects the intellectual property rights of other companies and has invested tremendous resources into building a brand identity by developing its own distinctive designs, not by copying others," Greenberg said in a statement.
Adidas has also sued Skechers for having allegedly copied the design for its classic white Stan Smith tennis sneakers. A trial is scheduled for April 2018, court records show.
While Puma had a hard time last week protecting its Fenty trademarks against Forever21, this decision shows US courts are taking a hard stance against intellectual property protection. With Adidas' failure to present a strong case, Skechers may solidify the practices of many brands whose inspiration lies close to original innovators.
The case is Adidas America Inc et al v Skechers USA Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, No. 16-01400.
Cassidy Mantor, with information from Reuters
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