Although Adidas and Nike have been in and out of court several times over the years, Adidas has taken it to a new level. On Friday, the company filed its first federal lawsuit against Nike, alleging that its rival infringed on nine of its patents relating to smartphone apps and adjustable shoe tech.
Initially reported by Reuters and Complex, the lawsuit pertains to a number of Nike’s digital products. Adidas claims that the Nike Run Club, Training Club, and SNKRS apps infringe its patents related to features like audio feedback during workouts, GPS tracking, training plans, integration with third-party accessories like heart rate monitors, and the ability to reserve and buy limited-edition sneakers. These are basic features on several running and fitness tracking apps, and this isn’t the first time Adidas has gone to court over it. In 2014, Adidas sued Under Armour over its Map My Fitness app. The two companies eventually settled, with Under Armour agreeing to pay Adidas a licensing fee.
The company also specifically cited its Confirmed app. Adidas introduced the app in 2015, billing it as a way to give customers insider access to its brands and exclusive sneaker releases. Nike’s SNKRS app was launched soon after and basically does the same thing for Nike’s sneakers.
Adidas also named Nike’s adjustable Adapt sneakers as infringing upon the Adidas_1. The Adidas_1 were a running shoe that featured a motor inside the sole and a heel sensor to adjust the “stiffness” of the shoe in real time. Meanwhile, Nike’s Adapt technology got a lot of buzz as it reminded consumers of the self-lacing sneakers featured in the classic sci-fi film Back to the Future. The purpose of the two shoes is arguably different, however. The Adidas_1 were meant to be an all-in-one shoe for runners, while Nike’s various iterations on its Adapt sneakers were more about accessibility and comfort.
Ultimately, Adidas is seeking damages from Nike as well as a court order preventing Nike from “directly or indirectly infringing one or more” of the patents involved. Should Adidas win, that could have a potentially far-reaching impact on fitness tracking apps. As mentioned, features like GPS route tracking cited in Adidas’ suit are almost ubiquitous in apps like Strava and Runkeeper as well as companion apps for various fitness trackers like Garmin and Polar.