FASHION LAW: NIKE ACCUSES FORMER SHOE DESIGNERS OF TAKING SECRETS TO ADIDAS
Nike, well-known for its athletic technology and modern design, has been a tenacious competitor to Adidas for decades.
Nike Inc. is accusing three of its former senior shoe designers of stealing commercial secrets and making a run for it to their German competitor, Adidas AG. Two former designers, Marc Dolce, Mark Miner and senior design director Denis Dekovic is up for interrogation for violating their non-compete agreements. The trio had been scheduled to staff the urban footwear’s newest design studio in Brooklyn; the announcement was made this past September. The lawsuit, filed in Oregon where Nike headquarters are, claims at least $10 million in damages.
The accusation revolves around the former three Nike employees who pitched Adidas, last April, on integrating a new design studio that would help craft products and they would supply information about Nike’s plans for the next few years in its running, sportswear, soccer lines. The plans for the studio were essentially a knockoff of Nike’s own design lab, calling Adidas’s lab The Kitchen. Adidas not only brought the studio idea, they offered the designers lucrative employment contracts in addition. Currently, the two senior designers are estimated to make about $100.1K in salary not including seasonal bonuses. The project, now called the Brooklyn Creative Design Studio, is set to open early next year.
In the heat of the feud, an Adidas representative responded with a nonchalant refute, “Not only do we have no interest in old work or past assignments, the company attracts top talent.” Nike simply replied with retaliation that they would do anything to protect its intellectual property. Their trade secrets do not only encompass manufacturing, industrial secrets, or commercial secrets, but they are the core of a brand. The unauthorized use of such information by persons other than the holder is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret. Trade secrets are defined by sales methods, marketing strategies, advertising campaigns, list of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. The complaint, Nike alleges that the designers not only copied sensitive designs (drawings for an unreleased shoe made for one of Nike’s sponsored athletes) and business documents from their computers, the culprits tried to hide incriminating evidence by erasing and emails/text messages from their work-issued cellphones and monitors. Nike also claims that Adidas knew of the non-compete agreements and vowed to pay for any legal fallout.
Trade secrets, contrary to patents, are protected without registration. Trade secrets are protected without any procedural formalities. They are handled with technological and legal security measures. Legal protections include non-disclosure agreements and non-compete clauses.
The case is Nike, Inc v Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce, and Mark Miner, in the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for the County of Multnomah, No. 14-cv-18876.