Small firm sues Apple and Nike

In a report that could spell trouble for the Apple and Nike deal that was announced last year, a small US company is suing both companies claiming Nike knowingly stole its idea for the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit.

Greg and Kenny Anderson of Leaper Footwear, LLC claim they invented the idea in 1995 and a have a patent filed in 1998 to prove it. According to the brothers, they invented footwear that measures performance parameters such as the wearer's running speed and distance traveled.

Leaper contacted Nike in 2000

Interestingly, the complaint points out that the Anderson brothers contacted Nike in 2000 asking the shoe manufacturer if it would buy a license to the patent and incorporate the technology into its offerings. Nike allegedly wrote back a few weeks later, claimint it had "no interest" in the idea.

From the lawsuit: "Six years later, in May 2006, acting on Leaper's suggestion but without contacting or seeking permission from Leaper to use the patent, Nike and Apple jointly announced their partnership to launch Leaper's invention through the 'Nike + iPod Sport Kit'."

The Nike + iPod Sport Kit offers Nike+ sneakers that can communicate with the iPod Nano and displays information on the iPod screen, such as time, distance, calories burned and pace, which audio feedback can be heard on the iPod's earbuds.

The lawsuit points out that Nike and Apple have generated "hundreds of millions of dollars in infringing sales" and the Andersons expect full remuneration for the infringement.

The Anderson brothers are seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial, as well as a permanent injunction that would bar Apple and Nike from selling the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. Further, the brothers are hoping for three times the damages assessed at trial due to the "willful and deliberate nature" of Nike's actions.