WASHINGTON — The U.S. International Trade Commission said it is initiating an investigation into a patent infringement complaint regarding athletic shoe technology filed by Reebok International Ltd. against New York-based TRB Acquisitions LLC.
Reebok, which is owned by Adidas AG, is alleging that TRB and its affiliates, including licensee Elite Performance Footwear LLC, and RBX.com LLC, RBX Active LLC and RBX Direct LLC, all of which are alleged to be under common ownership by TRB, violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the U.S. and sale of certain of its patents.
The ITC complaint centers around Reebok technology used in the soles of certain athletic shoes that “absorb impact forces” and can conform to the shape of an individual’s foot, designed to improve the functionality and performance of the soles of its footwear, the company said in its ITC complaint.
The technology, developed in the early Aughts, has since been incorporated into several Reebok footwear products, including its RealFlex Train footwear.
Reebok said it sold more than 300,000 pairs of shoes totaling $9 million in sales from the product lines covered by the patents that were alleged to have been infringed upon. The company said it “made significant investments to develop and bring to market these new and innovative technologies in the United States.”
Part of that investment includes facilities at Reebok’s 42-acre corporate headquarters in Canton, Mass., which are behind most aspects of Reebok’s design and development, the company said.
The company has two business units in the U.S. — its Future Innovation units, dedicated to research and development of new and innovative technologies for use in Reebok’s products.
Its estimated total investment in those business units and related supply chain management, sourcing and information technology covered by the patents in question exceeded $3.1 million in fiscal year 2015.
Reebok has also filed related litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against RBX and affiliated companies.
The company alleged in the ITC complaint that RBX’s accused shoes “appear modeled after Reebok’s patented shoes in significant respects.”
One example of the alleged infringement on its shoe sole technology cited by Reebok in the complaint includes the RBX Men’s X-Knit Special Edition Training shoe, which it charged “incorporates inventions and infringes upon two Reebok patents.”
Reebok is requesting that the ITC impose a permanent limited exclusion order to stop all of the allegedly infringing footwear imports from entering the U.S., as well as cease and desist orders from importing the products into the U.S. and the imposition of a 60-day bond to “prevent further injury to the domestic industry of Reebok” relating to the specified patents.
The ITC said an administrative law judge will conduct the investigation and hold a hearing on the complaint. The judge will then make an initial determination on whether there has been a violation of the statute, which is then subject to review by the full commission. The ITC also said it will make a final determination. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the ITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.