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In the case of Adidas vs. Puma, a court in Düsseldorf, Germany, has rejected an attempt by Adidas to prevent rival Puma from selling its popular NRGY shoe.
NRGY features a damping sole made of an innovative synthetic called expanded thermoplastic polyurethane, similar to Adidas’ “Boost.” The two activewear companies each claims it developed the synthetic first, although neither had it patented.
Puma said it started working on the damping material, which promises high-energy return to runners, in 2009 with German chemicals specialist BASF. Puma claims that in 2011 BASF terminated its partnership with Puma and struck an exclusive deal with Adidas instead.
Adidas launched “Boost” in 2013. Puma followed with NRGY two years later, after finding a new partner in U.S. chemicals company Huntsman Corp.
Adidas sought an injunction to stop the sale of NRGY, but lost for a second time before a German court on Tuesday.
“We are happy with the court’s decision,” Puma said, adding: “The court has affirmed that Puma was the first sporting-goods firm to have developed this sole technology.”
The two sportswear companies have a fierce rivalry that dates back to their foundation in the late 1940s after a falling out between brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler in the southern German town of Herzogenaurach.
The sporting goods industry has seen a big rise in patent disputes in recent years as the biggest players try to differentiate their products with features aimed at improving sporting performance rather than just looking good at the gym.
Both Adidas and Puma worked with German chemicals firm BASF on a new foam polyurethane that BASF says is as elastic as rubber, but lighter, providing a springy and cushioning sole that is ideal for running shoes.
However, BASF struck an exclusive deal with Adidas on the technology in 2011, allowing the bigger company to launch its new line of “Boost” shoes in 2013. It sold 10 million pairs in the running category alone in 2015.
That forced Puma to look for a new partner for the foam and it teamed up with U.S. company Huntsman Corp in 2014, launching its “NRGY” line last year. The shoes sell for about $100 and upwards a pair, still well below the price for most “Boost” ranges.
Adidas sought an injunction to stop the sale of “NRGY,” but lost the case at the Duesseldorf regional court on Tuesday.
“Puma tried to show Adidas with this case that even though we are smaller, we will not give in that easily. We will fight for our rights,” Neil Narriman, Puma head of intellectual property, told Reuters.
Narriman said Puma had held back from launching many versions of “NRGY” due to the case but would now promote the rival to “Boost” more aggressively.
An Adidas spokeswoman said the firm did not agree with the court decision and would review its next steps.
“We will continue to vigorously protect our rights and will continue to take action in case of infringements,” she said.
Separate proceedings that Puma brought against Adidas, accusing its bigger rival of profiting from its earlier work with BASF, are still ongoing. Adidas denies the Puma charge, saying it worked in parallel to Puma with BASF.
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NRGY MEN’S RUNNING SHOES
Style Number 188961-01
Say hi to your new favorite running shoe. It checks all the boxes. Breathable mesh upper? Yup. Extreme comfort? Let’s just say we took care of that and then some with its unique TPU foam midsole, designed to offer optimum cushioning and energy return. Perks? Reflective detailing and a uniquely textured midsole for comfort and style.
Breathable mesh upper with perf detailing
Small reflective graphics at toe, tongue, and heel
Lace closure for a snug fit
Anatomically shaped, removable sockliner for optimum comfort
Full-length TPU foam midsole offers high rebound cushioning and energy return
Rubber outsole for grip
PUMA Formstrip at lateral and medial sides; PUMA Cat Logo at tongue and heel
Weight: 10 ounces (size 9)
Similar to its popular “Boost” brand