Vibram’s Italian and U.S. operations have filed suit against Fila USA Inc. in a Massachusetts U.S. District Court, claiming patent infringement.
Vibram claims Fila’s Skele-Toes shoes with “individually articuable toe portions” infringes on Vibram’s patents held for protecting the design of its FiveFingers (photo, left) barefoot running shoe.
“Before Vibram FiveFingers were introduced, there was no minimalist footwear constructed with individual toe pockets that encouraged natural, barefoot movement, while at the same time providing enhanced grip and protection, Vibram USA President Tony Post said in a statement. “With our success, copyists and counterfeiters have come out of the woodwork. We will continue to take aggressive action against all who infringe our intellectual property.”
Fila officials responded with a statement of its own, saying the company will “vigorously defend itself against the complaint.”
“Prior to developing and releasing this line of footwear in February 2011, Fila determined that the Skele-Toes (photo, right) shoes did not infringe any existing patents including those owned by Vibram,” the statement said. “Though Vibram is generally credited with launching the minimalist trend in the footwear industry, Fila Skele-Toes join a long history of shoes with articulated toes and represent a more accessible approach to this rapidly expanding minimalist footwear category.”
Fila has marketed its Skele-Toes as more affordable casual shoes for boating, swimming, biking and walking, rather than professional running shoes, such as the Vibram FiveFingers.
-- David Clucas