Nike accuses former shoe designers of taking secrets to Adidas

NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Nike Inc is accusing three of its former senior shoe designers of stealing its commercial secrets and making off for German rival Adidas AG , which announced in September the trio would staff its new urban footwear design studio in Brooklyn.

A lawsuit filed in Oregon where Nike is headquartered claims at least $10 million in damages. The world’s largest sportswear maker said the former designers, Marc Dolce, Mark Miner, and senior design director Denis Dekovic, started consulting for Adidas while still working at the company, violating their non-compete agreements.

Nike said the designers hatched their plan last April, and pitched Adidas on a design studio that would help craft products while also bringing Adidas information about Nike’s plans for the next few years in its running, sportswear and soccer lines.

The plans for the studio were essentially for a knockoff of Nike’s own design lab, called the Kitchen, according to the complaint.

Adidas bought the studio idea and offered the designers lucrative employment contracts, Nike said. The project, called the Brooklyn Creative Design Studio, is set to open early next year.

An Adidas representative said the company attracts top talent and has “no interest in old work or past assignments.”

Nike’s spokesman declined to comment further on the case, but said the company will “vigorously” protect its intellectual property.

Before leaving Nike, the complaint alleged, the designers copied sensitive design and business documents from their computers, including drawings for an unreleased shoe made for one of Nike’s sponsored athletes.

The suit accused the designers of trying to hide their tracks by erasing incriminating emails and text messages from their work-issued cellphones and laptops.

Nike also claimed that Adidas knew of the non-compete agreements and promised to pay for any legal fallout. The agreements barred the designers from any connection with Adidas during their employment and for one year after.

The case is Nike, Inc v Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce, and Mark Miner, in the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for the County of Multnomah, No. 14-cv-18876.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Lisa Shumaker