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Reebok files patent infringement against Nike over collapsible shoes
April 05, 2007

Earlier this week, #2 shoe manufacturer Reebok sued #1 shoe manufacturer Nike for patent infringement. The patent at issue, number 7,168,190, just issued in the end of January, and relates to collapsable shoe technology. The idea is that the shoe design allows it to be rolled or folded for easier packing into, for example a gym bag. The lawsuit alleges that at least 12 different styles of Nike shoes infringe the '190 patent, all of which are from Nike's "Free" line.

While any high-profile patent case between two industry leaders is interesting, this case has the potential to be even more so because it was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, a district known as a "rocket docket," meaning cases proceed from filing to trial in short order, typically in less than a year. This district is also one of only a few that have special local rules specifically for patent infringement cases. As a result, resolution of the case will likely happen much sooner than average. Filing a patent infringement case in a "rocket docket" district (another "rocket docket" district is the Eastern District of Virginia ) can be preferable for a plaintiff, as it is often beneficial to obtain a finding of infringement as quickly as possible. The downside, of course, is that the shorter time from filing to trial compresses the amount of time in which costs and attorney fees accumulate, so while not necessarily more costly, the costs are compressed into a shorter time, which can present problems for parties without large budgets for legal expenses.

It will be interesting to see how the case progresses, particularly in the shortened time frame. Click below for a copy of the complaint, more detail from the patent, and examples of the allegedly infringing shoes.

Click here to view the complaint. The asserted claim is claim 1, which claims:

An article of footwear comprising: an upper; a sole adjacent said upper; and a sock liner disposed in said article of footwear; wherein said sole and said sock liner have corresponding flexure lines, said flexure lines including: a first flexure line in said sole that extends longitudinally through substantially an entire length of the sole and a first flexure line in said sock liner which corresponds with said first flexure line in said sole; a second flexure line in said sole that extends longitudinally through only a portion of the length of the sole and a second flexure line in said sock liner which corresponds with said second flexure line in said sole; and a plurality of third flexure lines in said sole that extend laterally from a medial side to a lateral side of the sole and a plurality of third flexure lines in said sock liner which correspond with said third flexure lines in said sole.

Figure 1 from the patent:

One of the allegedly infringing shoes (interior design on the right):

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