NEW YORK: Adidas-Nike rivalry heats up with lawsuit over designers. The claims of stealth and subterfuge have reignited Nike’s decades-long sneaker war with Adidas, the German-based shoe titan and Nike’s chief competitor. But they have also cast a spotlight on the high-stakes palace intrigue hidden beneath the world’s fiercely competitive, multibillion-dollar sneaker and Sportswear Empire.
In its 50-page legal complaint, Nike accuses the designers Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner of breaching their contracts, stealing trade secrets, and making off with what lawyers called “a treasure trove of Nike product designs, research information and business plans.”
Nike is seeking up to $10 million in damages and has asked the court for a temporary restraining order blocking the designers’ new initiative, an Adidas-backed design studio in Brooklyn. The suit says the three had non-compete agreements blocking them from working with a rival brand for a year after leaving Nike.
The designers said in a statement through their attorney, Matt Levin, “they poured in hours, passion and dedication [at Nike] beyond what was asked or expected of us, often prioritizing our jobs over our families.”
They said they never took trade secrets or intellectual property and called Nike’s allegations hurtful, false or “half-truths.” Levin said late Wednesday that his clients “are looking forward to having their day in court.”
A Nike spokesman called the firm “an innovation company” and said, “We will continue to vigorously protect our intellectual property.” In a statement, an Adidas spokesman said, “We have no interest in old work or past assignments as we are focused on shaping the future of the sporting goods industry.”
Nike has for years guarded the mystique of its secretive research-and-design labs, called the Innovation Kitchen and the Zoo. In the past two years, the company has invested more than $1.5m in a company-wide security campaign, called “Keep It Tight,” designed to safeguard its trade secrets.
The lawsuit alleges a staggering breach. The designers, attorneys said, fled with thousands of documents outlining Nike’s long-term business strategy, unreleased shoe and uniform designs, and even details of “highly confidential and proprietary virtual footwear product design and computer simulation testing methodology.”