Shoe giant aborts mission on TX 'rocket docket' patent lawsuit

Rob Luke Jul. 16, 2007, 12:26pm

TYLER, TX -- It had the potential for some exciting legal foot-to-foot contact, but cooler heads eventually prevailed.

Rather than try to defend a suit against arch-rival Reebok deep in the heart of Texas's most plaintiff-friendly courts for patent protection, Nike instead chose to settle. Terms were not revealed.

At a scheduled hearing at the Eastern District Federal courthouse on July 2 in Tyler, Reebok said it had dropped the suit against its foe.

"Nike and Reebok have resolved the differences related to the lawsuit to our mutual satisfaction", a Reebok spokeswoman told the Quincy (Mass.) Patriot-Ledger.

Canton, Mass.-based Reebok International Ltd. announced it had sued Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike Inc. in April alleging 11 of Nike's "Free" collapsible-soled athletic shoes breached a Reebok patent.

"Despite Reebok's patent protection, Nike 'willfully and intentionally' developed shoes that use Reebok's technology," Reebok's press release stated.

Reebok claims it first developed flexible-soled sneakers with the same technology as the Free line in 2000 for "Travel Trainers". Reebok, bought by German giant Adidas in early 2006 for $3.8 billion, won
patent protection for the technology on Jan. 30, LNL reported in April.

The Tyler court's reputation for plaintiff-friendliness in patent-infringement cases, like that of nearby Marshall, may have influenced Nike's decision not to tough it out. The district is known as the "rocket docket" for its expediency and pro-plaintiff tilt in patent-infringement cases.

Reebok International had sought damages of triple the amount of lost business attributable to Nike's patent infringement. Annual sales of Nike's "Free" line total around $100 million, the Patriot Ledger

Reebok's suit had alleged that Nike's Free, Free Flex, Free Zen & Now, Free Trainer, and Free Trail product lines all infringed on its January patent.

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