What is it with kooky shoes and lawsuits? Last June, we reported on a lawsuit between Gucci and Guess over some overpriced bowling shoes. Now we are pleased to inform you that Vibram and Fila have settled their litigation over "barefoot shoes" - AKA those funky neoprene and mesh shoes with the individual toe casings. They're kind of like those silly toe socks you got as holiday gifts back in the 1970s from your Aunt Mabel.
The difference is that while striped toe socks are now considered cool (by some) in a "retro ironic" kind of way, Vibram's FiveFinger shoes and Fila's Skele-Toes shoes are touted as the next best thing to being barefoot, which enthusiasts of barefoot running (or barefoot living in general) claim has health benefits for the foot muscles, knees, legs and back.
That's the reasoning behind these odd shoes, anyway. Despite the fact that barefoot-living enthusiasts scorn Skele-Toes and FiveFingers because they are, well, shoes, and most people who wear normal shoes think the "barefoot shoes" look silly, the style is surprisingly popular. Which brings us to our lawsuit settlement.
Though the terms of the settlement between Fila and Vibram weren't disclosed, we do know that the lawsuit centered on the alleged infringement of two design patents and one utility patent, "Footwear having independently articuable toe portions." Vibram's shoe has 5 toe compartments and Fila's has only 4 (the two smallest toes share a room), but the two styles are similar enough to justify a patent lawsuit (and odd looks if you wear them to the office).
There are other shoe brands that offer barefoot shoes, so Vibram may still have some litigation on its plate. And with these barefoot shoes priced much higher than regular shoes (in many cases), it's likely that more companies will soon foot the bill for using Vibram's patented shoe designed. (Sorry, couldn't resist a pun.)
This got me to thinking. The Apple - Samsung lawsuit. What was over both utility and design patents, right?
Seriously, a human foot has 5 toes. How can there ever be a patent on a shoe which honors human anatomy? And how can it be an infringement, if another company gets the idea of making their shoes more like the human foot?