Nikes Sues Former Designers Now at Adidas

Adidas is getting a lot more than just top footwear talent after it hired three senior designers from Nike Inc. this year. The athletic giant just got slapped with a $10 million lawsuit, too.

Nike filed suit yesterday against three of its former senior designers — Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner — alleging they stole trade secrets and began collaborating with Adidas on recreating Nike’s Innovation Kitchen while still employed at the Beaverton, Ore., firm. Nike’s Kitchen is known as its testing lab, where it develops styles and products years in advance.

Nike is asking for $10 million in damages.

Adidas announced in September it was opening a design lab in Brooklyn, N.Y. As the firm has struggled in recent years to strengthen its business in North America, the move was largely seen as a decision to help bolster Adidas’ global presence in the U.S. In an initial release about the hires and project, Adidas had said the goal of the studio was to set the design direction for the company and elevate “the company’s direct interaction with consumers.”

Dekovic worked as senior design director for Nike soccer. Dolce was design director, with experience in training, running, women’s, lifestyle and sportswear. He had worked on the shoes for LeBron James and other athletes. Miner was a senior footwear designer for Nike Running who also worked on women’s and basketball, and is best known for his work on the Nike Free Run style.

A Nike spokesman told FN: “We believe the complaint Nike filed against former footwear employees Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner explains the situation clearly. Nike is an innovation company, and we will continue to vigorously protect our intellectual property.”

Adidas, meanwhile, told FN: “Known for industry-leading innovation and game-changing performance products, we attract top talent from around the world. We offer the most challenging and rewarding opportunities for creatives in our industry. Many of our employees have storied careers and rich experiences, but we have no interest in old work or past assignments.”

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