Columbia Sportswear subsidiary OutDry files lawsuit against Italian footwear company

Columbia Sportswear subsidiary OutDry files lawsuit against Italian footwear company

A Columbia Sportswear subsidiary claims in a federal lawsuit that Italian footwear company Geox S.p.A. is stealing its proprietary water-proofing technology.

The subsidiary, OutDry Technologies Corp., asks the court for a temporary injunction preventing Geox from selling shoes with its waterproofing in the United States. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and asks for unspecified monetary damages.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the southern district of New York last week, where the Geox U.S. headquarters is located, is similar to lawsuits also filed in Italy and Germany. Also, this is not the first time Columbia and OutDry have taken complaints to court, though previously for an unrelated matter.

OutDry contends that Geox began using the waterproofing technology featured in Columbia’s OutDry footwear and other gear after Geox did not complete the purchase of the company that created OutDry’s technology.

On Aug. 4, 2010, Columbia announced its purchase of Italian company Nextec, invented by Antonio Morlacchiin 1998. Terms of the deal, announced from Columbia’s headquarters in Washington Count and Nextec’s in Busto Arsizio,Italy, were not revealed.

Columbia created the company OutDry Technologies Corp. to market the new waterproofing technology and to use the Nextec patent.

The lawsuit contends that Columbia and Nextec reached their agreement following a series of meetings between Nextec and Geox.

Nextec and Geox had been discussing Geox’ possible acquisition of Nextec’s technology, the lawsuit contends. The talks included a general description of the Nextec technology at one meeting and, later, a July 2006 tour of the factory in China where the waterproofing product was created, the lawsuit says.

It says the waterproofing process was applied to a sample of Geox footwear to show how the technology could be applied.

After the visit, Nextec officials asked Geox officials to sign a non-disclosure agreement affirming a previous oral agreement but Geox officials refused, the lawsuit says.

In September 2006, a Geox official ended collaboration talks with Nextec.

But about three years later, a Geox official approached Nextec about a partnership.

Those talks began in 2010, the lawsuit says, but instead, Columbia purchased Nextec.

Last year, however, Geox released in the United States a line of footwear called Amphibiox.The lawsuit contends the waterproofing principle used in Geox’ Amphibiox is identical to that used in OutDry’s.

The lawsuit contends the Amphibiox is infringing on the OutDry’s patented technology.

Columbia officials declined to comment on the suit. A Geox official, contacted after business hours Monday, could not be reached.

— Allan Brettman