Nike settles with designers it accused of stealing secrets

A shoe is displayed in the Nike store in Santa Monica, California, September 25, 2013. NIKE, Inc. plans to release its first quarter fiscal 2014 financial results on Thursday, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nike Inc has settled a lawsuit against three former shoe designers it had accused of stealing its commercial secrets and taking them to German rival Adidas AG with plans to open a footwear design studio in Brooklyn.

The designers’ attorney, Matt Levin, said in a statement Tuesday that the case had been resolved through a confidential settlement. Both Nike and Adidas declined to comment, but a clerk with the state court in Oregon, where the lawsuit was filed, said both sides agreed to dismiss the matter on June 4.

Nike, the world’s largest sportswear maker, sued Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner last December for at least $10 million in damages, alleging that the trio started consulting for Adidas while still working at Nike, violating their non-compete agreements.

Before leaving Nike, the complaint alleged, the designers copied sensitive documents, including drawings for an unreleased shoe made for one of Nike’s sponsored athletes, and tried to cover their tracks by erasing emails and text messages from their work-issued cellphones and laptops.

Nike’s complaint said the trio brought Adidas information about Nike’s plans for its running, sportswear and soccer lines and pitched Adidas on a design studio that was a knockoff of its own design lab.

Last September, Adidas announced it would open an urban footwear design studio in Brooklyn, to be staffed by Dekovic, Dolce and Miner.

Nike also claimed that Adidas knew of the non-compete agreements and promised to pay for any legal fallout.

In a countersuit filed in May, the designers had claimed that Nike invaded their privacy and broke federal law in accessing their personal electronic communications. They said Nike’s corporate culture was “stifling their creativity” and that their idea for a design studio did not rely on Nike’s confidential information.

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 Jonathan Oatis