Public Interest

Supreme Court Rejects Nike and Adidas Patent Dispute, Resolving Long-standing Legal Battle
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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought by Nike, in which the American footwear giant sought to overturn a U.S. Patent Office tribunal’s decision to cancel part of a shoe patent involved in a dispute with its German rival, Adidas. The lower court’s decision, upholding the agency’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board action, has been left intact by the justices.

The legal battle between Nike and Adidas has revolved around multiple patent disputes concerning technology used in their respective shoe designs. In 2012, Adidas petitioned the patent office tribunal to invalidate one of Nike’s patents related to the production of seamless knitted upper components for athletic sneakers.

After agreeing to hear the case, the tribunal granted Nike’s request to cancel parts of its patent but denied the company’s bid to amend the patent. The denial was based on earlier publications that covered the same invention as Nike’s proposed substitute patent elements. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, specializing in patent cases, sent the case back to the board on two occasions, ultimately rejecting a third appeal by Nike last year.


In March, Nike argued before the Supreme Court that the tribunal had exceeded its authority by canceling a substitute patent element based on arguments that Adidas had not raised during the proceedings. Nike contended that the board should not have been permitted to make such a decision on its own accord.

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In a separate development, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board ruled in May that the patent office tribunal had engaged in improper retaliation against administrative judge Michael Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick had raised objections to the tribunal’s decision to modify the size of the panel of officials hearing the Nike case without informing either Nike or Adidas.

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The Justice Department, in May, urged the Supreme Court to remand Nike’s case back to the Federal Circuit. This recommendation was made to allow Nike to challenge the patent invalidity decision in light of the Merit Systems Protection Board’s ruling.

However, with the Supreme Court declining to take up the case, the lower court’s decision stands, concluding the long-standing legal battle between Nike and Adidas. The patent office tribunal’s cancellation of part of Nike’s shoe patent remains in effect, solidifying Adidas’ position in the dispute.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case brings finality to the legal proceedings, leaving Nike with no further recourse within the U.S. judicial system. The outcome emphasizes the significance of the lower court’s ruling and the authority of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in patent disputes.

The resolution of this high-profile case is expected to have implications for future patent battles within the sportswear industry. Nike and Adidas, as major competitors, will likely continue to prioritize patent protection and innovation in their ongoing efforts to develop cutting-edge footwear technologies.

As the legal dust settles, both Nike and Adidas will undoubtedly assess the impact of the dispute on their respective business strategies. While Adidas emerges from the litigation with a favorable outcome, Nike may need to explore alternative avenues to protect its intellectual property and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Overall, the Supreme Court’s decision marks the end of a protracted legal clash between two industry giants, underscoring the importance of patent rights and the role of regulatory bodies in resolving intellectual property disputes. The ruling sets a precedent for future cases in the sportswear sector and reinforces the significance of thorough patent examination and adherence to procedural guidelines within the patent office tribunal.

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