The battle for sportswear supremacy has taken a Shakespearean turn after Nike sued three former designers who left for Adidas in September, accusing them of running off with a “treasure trove” of company designs and business plans.
The American sportswear giant has filed a lawsuit in Oregon, where Adidas is headquartered, against Denis Dekovic, Mark Dolce and Mark Miner for $10m in damages.
In the explosive suit, Nike describes the trio of high-ranking designers as “co-conspirators” who “hatched a plot” to start their own version of Nike’s innovation lab at Adidas before setting up their own business.
The designers are also accused of stealing the “master strategic business plan” for Nike’s football business, including details for future kit designs for teams such as England, Brazil, Manchester City and Barcelona.
Nike says it will “suffer irreparable harm if this scheme is permitted to continue”, due to lost market share, sales, and goodwill.
Although the three men are professionally renowned for their shiny sneaker designs, Nike’s lawsuit conjures images of shadowy acts of secrecy that would be more at home in a John le Carre novel.
Dekovic is alleged to have had the contents of his Nike-issued laptop copied while Dolce is accused of sending confidential information to a personal email account.
All three of the accused held prominent positions at Nike before leaving earlier this year. Dekovic was Nike’s global football design director before he left the company, Dolce worked on basketball shoes for superstars such as Kobe Bryant, while Miner had been a key figure in the success of Nike’s running shoes.
Nike paints a picture of desperate Adidas, which was facing “drastic declines” in profit, being seduced by the designers’ promises of information that could give it a competitive advantage over its major rival.
At times in the lawsuit, the American sportswear giant manages to sound like a scorned teenage lover, at one point describing Dekovic as consorting with Adidas but “all the while deceiving Nike into believing that he loved Nike, its brand, and that his long-term career plan was to remain with Nike”.
It even accuses the trio of paying for Twitter and Instagram followers in order to impress Adidas.
Meanwhile Dekovic and co have denied the allegations:
Until the very end, we stayed engaged, loyal and committed. We have a tremendous amount of respect for our colleagues and Nike and would never do anything to harm them.We find Nike’s allegations hurtful because they are either false or misleading half-truths. We did not take trade secrets or intellectual property when we departed Nike in September.