Vibram (FiveFingers) Sues Fila (Skele-Toes) for Patent Infringement

VIBRAM SUES FILA USA FOR PATENT INFRINGEMENTCONCORD, MA, JULY 18, 2011 – Vibram S.p.A., of Italy, today announced that it and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Vibram USA Inc. have commenced legal action in the United States District Court, District of Ma…

BREAKING NEWS! I’ve just gotten wind of a press release that is going out today from Vibram — Vibram has filed suit against Fila for patent infringement. In a nutshell, it seems Vibram, the originator of toe shoes with the FiveFingers brand, believes Fila has infringed on it’s intellectual property rights by creating the “Skele-toes” shoes, which have been prevalently marketed in the United States over the past few months. Here’s the press release, emphasis mine:


CONCORD, MA, JULY 18, 2011 – Vibram S.p.A., of Italy, today announced that it and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Vibram USA Inc. have commenced legal action in the United States District Court, District of Massachusetts against Fila USA, Inc. for patent infringement. The patents involved cover footwear having individually articuable toe portions, as embodied in Vibram’s enormously successful FiveFingers® branded footwear that has helped to pioneer minimalist footwear, the barefoot running trend, and its inherent benefits.

The complaint alleges Fila USA, Inc.’s (“Fila”) “Skeletoes” footwear is infringing several U.S. Patents held by Vibram. The FiveFingers Patents cover a variety of footwear designs comprising individual toe pockets.

“Before Vibram FiveFingers were introduced, there was no minimalist footwear constructed with individual toe pockets that encouraged natural, barefoot movement, while at the same time providing enhanced grip and protection. Vibram pioneered the minimalist footwear category,” said Tony Post, Vibram USA’s President. “Vibram launched the concept in 2005, and public reception has grown tremendously since, now the entire footwear industry has responded by entering the minimalist category. In fact, Vibram has even partnered with Merrell and New Balance to create minimal/barefoot like sole platforms that are complementary to our Vibram FiveFingers.”

Post added, “Vibram innovated the technology and earned the patents. With our success, copyists and counterfeiters have come out of the woodwork. We will continue to take aggressive action against all who infringe our intellectual property. These infringements are not only damaging to Vibram, they also hurt our retail partners and the public trust. Vibram will work diligently to bring such action to a stop.”

Vibram® is recognized worldwide as the leader in high performance soles for outdoor, recreational, work and fashion footwear and is relied on by the world’ s greatest climbers and athletes. Time magazine named Vibram FiveFingers one of the best inventions of 2007 in the category of health. Vibram® soles have set the standard since Vitale Bramani created mountaineering’s first rubber lugged sole in the late 1930’s. Vibram® soles have gone on to conquer Mt. Everest, K2 and a host of the world’s tallest peaks. Today, the company works with premium brands including Danner, La Sportiva, Lowa, Merrell, Red Wing, Scarpa, The North Face, Timberland, Vasque, Wolverine and many more. For further information please visit or

Justin here: Yowza! I’m not sure what to make of this and no, I don’t have any of the details surrounding which patents in particular Vibram has that Fila has allegedly infringed. What we have here is a clash of the “toetans” — couldn’t help myself. In all seriousness, Vibram has had an insane problem with counterfeit FiveFingers coming out of China (my list of fake FiveFingers retailers is something like 500 websites long!). That said, are the Fila Skele-Toes violating Vibram’s intellectual property rights?

@bdayshoes And so, it begins. My boys and I noticed this on t... on TwitpicWe’ve reviewed the original Fila Skele-Toes here and the Skele-toes 2.0 here. Anecdotally speaking, I can recant countless friends and family members telling me, “Oh I saw your shoes on a billboard on the highway [here in Atlanta],” leaving me correcting them that, “No those are the Fila Skele-toes — they’re a good bit different than FiveFingers.” That said, confusion over toe shoes probably isn’t grounds for lawsuit (Legal Disclaimer: I’m no lawyer!).

I believe Skele-toes are pretty markedly different than FiveFingers — they are stiffer soled, have four toe pockets instead of five, and have an overall feel that isn’t very comfortable to me — relative to the comfort of any pair of Vibram FiveFingers. Of course, I chalked the problems with Fila’s introductory toe shoes product up to lack of experience and refinement.

All of that is moot, of course, when it comes to how a court will rule on intellectual property rights.

And what say you? Since we can all play armchair lawyer here, do you think Fila has infringed on Vibram’s rights? One thing is for sure, Vibram was not kidding when they published this ad back in 2010 in Footwear Plus magazine:

The back of Footwear Plus magazine, Vibram has a special message “to anyone thinking about infringing on any of our 200+ patents and trademarks.”

What say you? Let’s hear it!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

71 replies on “Vibram (FiveFingers) Sues Fila (Skele-Toes) for Patent Infringement”

They seem ugly and uncomfortable, and I get told the same thing about the billboards around town.

Hard to imagine what patent they are violating, but I’m no lawyer.

I cannot imagine that Vibram is the only company that can make toe shoes. It is hard to say what patents they are claiming are infringed on. I will say that the Skeletoes do somewhat resemble the KSO. It will definitely be interesting to see what transpires out of all of this.

This is fascinating stuff, and possibly, just the beginning of a series of similar cases (not mentioning any names of companies that have recently brought out new minimalist shoes that bear an uncanny resemblance to an existing product…REEBOK!!) In their eagerness to jump on the minimalist bandwagon, lots of sports shoe companies have been bringing out shoes that claim to ‘promote a natural running stride.’ The joke is that quite frequently, their ads depict someone running with anything BUT a natural stride or talk about ‘control and cushioning’ in the same breath as ‘letting the foot work as it was designed to.’ The only thing they are really promoting is, of course, themselves.

I guess this is important especially as a precedent, the Fila shoes are not a very good alternative, but if Vibram let’s this be, next comes probably another company with something that is really competitive.

@Dirk, I agree Vibram has to nip this in the bud as best they can. I think though that Fila isn’t really trying to compete with Skeletoes as much as they are out to poach those fringe buyers who might be interested in FiveFingers but apprehensive to spend on a premium product.

Patent searching isn’t too hard.

It will be interesting to see if they can Fila for this, given that the patent is pretty specific about pockets that leave all toes to individually move around, and Fila could simply argue that their shoe is simply inferior because it doesn’t allow all toes individual degrees of movement.

Maybe there’s something to the “part of the sole wraps around the toes” that could be attacked. As there seem sot be plenty of prior art related to “toe pocket” footwear…such as,805,860&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

I do hope that Vibram takes the idea that a lower price product is a hole in their offering. I got a pair of Skele-Toes for $45 during a sale at a store in my local mall. I would have walked right past them for a 60 dollar pair of Vibrams, but I just couldn’t put 80-100 dollars down on my first pair of barefoot shoes.

No matter what happens with the suit, getting the “official” word out that Fila’s toe shoes are cheap knock-offs is a good move by Vibram.

I have several Five Fingers, and one pair of Fila Skele-Toes. The four pockets actually work well for me, they are too warm for summer because they are like a doubble sided wet suit, I will be happy to use the Fila Skele-Toes to clear snow from tne driveway, my Five Finger Baklas will be worn out by then.

Very much so agree with Ty. I think this is getting more main stream coverae through billboards and such. So in turn people are now associating an infereior product with VFF’s. As a large company that has invested a lot of money into developement, I would want to make sure that my product was not compared to or mistaken for something of a lesser calibur.

Nike AIR RIFT beat Vibram to it. The shoe may not have incorporated all 5 toes but they sold & marketed the idea first. The shoe incorporated an articulable toe portion which gave GRIP & PROTECTION! I think they would be the only shoe company to be able to make a 5 finger shoe and be able to nullify Vibram’s patent. Also they’re a MULTI BILION DOLLAR company & could fight any lawsuit for decades!!! I think Vibram is lucky that the Nike FREE style of shoes are wildly popular. If Nike were to produce a 5 finger shoe it would destroy Vibram. The Nike Air Rift premiered in 1995 and was a hit with both the bohemian and the nightclub crowds. This unusual split toed shoe was origianlly designed for the Kenyan runners who were accustomed to running barefoot but were required to have footwear at many events.

I owned a pair of Air Rifts, they were my second step into minimalist shoes, after a pair of Frees.

In any case, I think this is a lawsuit based on Vibram being afraid that others will begin to delve into the more minimalist shoes, and I, for one, have lost some respect for Vibram because of it. I will reserve my judgement to see exactly what patent Vibram is saying has been infringed, because I don’t think that individual toes in shoes is all that innovative. There was an episode of Married with Children that talked about shoes with individual toes, for crying out loud.

I am a big fan of Vibram. I am not a fan of these type of patents suits.

Vibram’s ads say it themselves, “You are the the technology.” They themselves admit that they are just copying nature.

Links to the patents would make this story better.

I’m rather sure this would count as “prior art” 😀

Watch out Vibram! you may find that you don’t want to see if your patents hold up in court!

@Khari Davis,
Nike only copied the 2-toe compartment design of the Japanese Jika Tabi (or tabi boots) that has been around for more than a century. In fact, Nike released their Air Rift in the Japanese market as a sporty alternative to the traditional boots.
As for the patent infringement obviously the separate toe sections alone isn’t enough. There’ve been several other designs with separate toe compartments prior to Vibram’s patents.

Again, I think the important part of this is to look at claim 1 (assuming that this is the patent they are talking about):

I claim:

1. Footwear, comprising:
a sole; and an upper;wherein the sole and the upper delimit individual toe portions configured to receive, retain, and allow independent articulation of corresponding individual toes of a foot inserted in the footwear; and
wherein the sole includes an extension portion which extends upwardly around at least a portion the foot;
wherein the extension portion of the sole comprises a sole toe extension which extends around a front of at least one of said individual toe portions and which extends over at least a portion of a toe nail area of said individual toe portions.

So, the patent basically covers a shoe that has three things:
A) articulated toes
B) at least part of the sole extends to “form a cup” around the foot
C) the sole also extends up-and-around a part of the toe section where one would expect a toe nail to be.

I would guess that Fila could claim their shoes does not meet all of these requirements (again, assuming that this is the patent they are going after Fila with).

I know Vibram has been pretty aggressive in the past with FiveFinger fakes, but because we don’t know what patents Fila allegedly infringed upon I can’t say if the lawsuit is justified.

@ Jesse, I think you hit the nail on the head. I feel Vibram is scared and wants to keep their monopoly of the minimalist market. If Nike created a shoe with one articulable toe, what keeps Nike from creating a shoe with 5? I too would like to know what patent was infringed upon.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Vibram shoes. I currently own two pairs of Bikilas. But they’re not the first shoe company to create a shoe with articulable toes. I guess they’re going to have to sue the split toe surfing shoe and rock climbing companies also. Lol!

I hope Fila is found innocent of any wrong doing, it would hopefully open the market up to more competitors. I would rather see every shoe company have a toe-shoe model than only one.

Often in cases like this the smaller company just backs down because it’s easier and cheaper than fighting in court. I wonder if Vibram is anticipating this and doesn’t really plan to go to court?

How can you have a patent on VFF?

Does someone have a patent on the first shoe that was ever made?

What about frist t-shirt? Then the first sleevless shirt? or first pair of pants?

What is so special about vff that is can be patented? Is there a patent for toe socks?

I wonder what the patent is really on as it can’t be just because it has 5 compartments. I mean they expect NO ONE to EVER make toe shoes again with out their approval? That’s absurd.

I saw someone wearing the fila shoes and they do really look exactly like the vibrams brand. So i’m sure the patent has something to do with that.

I started with a pair of Fila Skele-toes and when I used to wear them, people who saw them assumed they were Vibram Five Fingers. Since the Skele-toes are not meant for running and only supposed to be used for casual walking, they are not marketed towards the same crowd but I can see how people could be confused about them at first glance.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this lawsuit.

It doesn’t matter if someone had the idea first – it only matters if somebody has a patent on it. Vibram was the only company that took the time and the financial risk to bring their product to market with patent protection. The human foot is not what is on trial here – it is the design of foot wear. Reebok had a patent on their “Pump” basketball shoes in the 1980’s. Other companies tried to copy them and Reebok sued them and won. Hope Fila pulls their P.O.S. shoe off the market or Vibram really sticks it to them in court. Commerce needs intellectual protection as due reward for taking risk. If the market place was a free for all, then innovation would go into the toilet. There would be no incentive to innovate because your intellectual property could be stolen at any time. I fully back Vibram on this move to sue Fila. Vibram will show the world that they will not lay idle and allow other companies to steal from them. Go get them Vibram!

Hey, Luis Sentís Anfruns, the inventor of that 1976’s patent, was from Barcelona and a former rugby player, what a funny coincidence!
He was the president of the Club Natació Barcelona for at least 25 years, a prestigious sportive club in the city. I played many times against some of the teams of their rugby section.
Based on some of his inventions I’d say he’d probably be a textile engineer.
I wouldn’t be surprised he had already passed away, though. Since his patent is already 35 years old at this point it must be of public and free use.

How did you know about the existence of that patent?


Very interesting background — nice sleuthing. Re: how did I know? Well, a little birdie told me 🙂 He requested anonymity though so I really can’t say.

I love my Fivefingers, but I’m a little disappointed by this lawsuit. I think having a competitor in the toe-shoe market is good for everyone (brings prices down, causes everyone to innovate). I hate it when a company takes the “sue the competition away” approach *cough* apple-versus-android *cough* instead of focusing on changing their product for the better.

Vibram’s patent lists Anfruns’ patent as prior art. In fact 11 others are mentioned as prior art. There is no “Ah ha!” moment here. In addition, Vibram frames their patent such that it is patentable without infringing on prior art. After reading both patents, everything appears to be perfectly legal in Vibram’s patent. Patents are good because they protect intellectual property and allow an inventor to recoup expenses related to R&D. Without patent protection there would no incentive for innovation. Cry about the prices or whatever, but Vibram EARNED their patent. Counterfeiting and infringing on patents is not completion, it is theft plain and simple.

Vibram’s patent

I think that getting the word out that vibram is suing Fila for copyright infringement is just as damaging to Fila’s business as Fila releasing a toe shoe damages vibram’s.

To me, they’re marketed to two groups. Vffs: people who prefer minimalist footwear, innovative design, or technical use. Skeletoes: people who are turned off by high price points for active wear, prefer a non standard shoe design, or don’t have access to a vff retailer (as I’ve seen one or the other in stores but rarely both).

The same thing happened with the Air Rifts and Royal Elastics. The tabi design Nike used for a technical running shoe, Royal elastics also used to release an active wear shoe that, although very similar in appearance, was inferior in build quality and not comfortable (for me) to run in.

I gave the skeletoes a try and found the lower price point wasn’t enough to compensate for it’s shortcomings in style and comfort or as a viable running shoe.

My thing is this – if you want to jump on the toe shoe wagon but can’t afford vffs, buy skeletoes. Just know that kind of makes them the “poor man’s fivefingers.”


>Without patent protection there would no incentive for innovation.

So what you’re saying is that you’d never innovate or think of new ideas if it wasn’t for patent law?

Maybe that is the case, but I doubt it – people are always innovating. I’d argue innovation is largely a by-product of having a need that isn’t being met matched against a good dose of trial and error and a little bit of random inspiration.

I don’t mean to start a debate about the merits of patent law, so I’ll stop with a quote from Thomas Jefferson:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.

– Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson

Via cdixon

And I’ll ask you this: based on your reading of Vibram’s patent, how exactly is Fila in violation of their IP?

I’m sure that Vibram has some kind of case here; they’re not exactly going after a mom and pop establishment. I also think that this is an effort to protect their brand and at least distinguish it from a pair of shoes on sale at Kohl’s for 35 bucks. It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out.

business, monopoly, they should go to china and look at these copied/fake vff filas role was to make a cheaper alternative filas lawyers are not dumb,i tell you when japanese cars went into market in the 70s most of us laugh because they were inferior and copied but whos laughing now???

I’m not sure that Vibram has much of a case. The Fila Skeletoes seem very different. Along with the stiffer sole and different tread, they have four toes instead of five, and they are really marketed as general wear shoes rather than towards hard-core runners. Besides, split toe shoes (tabi) have been around for centuries, and it’s not much of a stretch to go from two toe pockets to four or five.

Vibram should be happy that someone is offering a more entry-level shoe since they aren’t. I was not ready to drop $100 on a pair of Vibrams without knowing if barefoot running would really benefit me, but $45 for some Skeletoes caught my attention, and now that I’m sold on the concept I’m looking at buying some Vibrams.


I don’t see this discussion being productive due to differing ideologies. Since I believe it is poor taste and disrespectful to “get into it” with the owner of a website on their own site, I’ll just explain a little bit more and just leave well enough alone. I deal with patent law in my day job. It affects our bottom line when revenues drop off because one of our products goes off patent. Real people lose jobs and real families suffer. If you don’t deal with patents and see the big picture it is easy to misunderstand how they drive innovation. Your response to me was greatly over simplified. Necessity will always create some innovation, but mass distribution is only realized when a great reward is guaranteed. Far more people can benefit from the invention because it is publicized by the inventor. Without patent protection more inventors would keep their ideas to their selves’ and progress would be stunned. Why share when there is no reward; especially if you can’t even cover your expenses. Despite what some may believe, the primary objective of business is to make cash. A company can do nice things by giving back to the community, but that’s not the purpose of their existence. As to the infringement claim, I’ll leave that to Vibram’s lawyers. However, in my “opinion” the most obvious infraction is how the toe end caps are designed on the Skele-Toes.


I respect your position – I just think intellectual property law isn’t so cut and dry as far as the benefits regarding innovation. Its moot to this discussion of course because the bottom line will be if the court finds Fila’s design to be in violation of Vibrams patent.

Personally I don’t think the toe caps on the Skeletoes go over the tops of the toes. Just my take on their design.

I love my pair of VFF Bikila LS, but good luck VFF. Is VFF saying that no other company may produce a shoe that follows the natural contours of the foot? Back in 1992, I used to run in Nike shoes that had an individual toe pocket – long before the birth of VFF. Here is something similar: VFF has no rights to their claim. Shame on you VFF. Is VFF afraid of some competition? Maybe VFF knows that their product is overpriced.

I kinda wonder if Vibram isn’t going to get sued by Pony or was that Fubu who posted an ad like that a few years ago.

November 6, 1991. Married with Children aired episode 6.8 entitled God’s Shoes: Here is the episode:

July 15, 2011. Here is what Tony Post, Vibram USA’s President, had to say in their claim against FILA: “Before Vibram FiveFingers were introduced, there was no minimalist footwear constructed with individual toe pockets that encouraged natural, barefoot movement, while at the same time providing enhanced grip and protection. Vibram pioneered the minimalist footwear category. Vibram launched the concept in 2005″ (

Tony Post should check his calendar, because, in the Gregorian calendar, 1991 came before 2005.

This case is too fun to stop analyzing.

Vibram’s patent acknowledges the existence of previous art, but claims that their infringement upon them is allowed, because they were all failures. Says who? Does subjective reasoning invalidate an established fact? If so, then FILA can apply the same reasoning to infringe upon Vibram’s patents. Here is an excerpt from VIbram’s patent. “Attempts have been made to provide footwear having individual portions which encapsulate each toe separately. See, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,967,390, 4,651,354, and 5774898. However, none of these have been successful….The above discussed and other problems and deficiencies of the prior art are overcome or alleviated by the invention…” (

As much as I love my KSO’s I have to say that being in the US market, it is inevitable that other companies are going to mimic VFF’s due to their success.

One could arguably say that Vibram has a monopoly over footwear products with individualized toe pockets. (I know there are the inov8 shoes but just play along for a sec) If there is no competition, Vibram could essentially create fewer products and raise prices having complete control over the market for these types of shoes (although I doubt we’ll ever see Vibram making less FF options)

I’m a patent attorney (no affiliation to either Vibram or Fila) posting to clear up some misconceptions I’ve read in the comments.

First, Vibram’s US patent claims do not require *five* toe pockets for *five* toes to each be individually inserted; a permissible interpretation would be that a shoe with 4, or even 3, individual toe pockets could infringe.

Second, patent infringement is governed by the patent claims and it’s intersection with the “accused device”. It matters not how they feel on the feet, how much they cost, what retails channels they’re sold through, who they’re marketed to … unless those things are recited in the patent claims, of course. It’s a far tighter analysis that some of the kneejerk reactions (nothing personal meant by that) being posted here.

Third, the scope of what Vibram can block others from doing is defined by the patent claims. People are throwing around some awfully broad-brush statements which are not connected to the scope of those claims. Likewise, the patent only gives Vibram the right to bar others from doing what their claims encompass — they themselves have no “free pass” to make/sell anything if it would infringe someone else’s earlier patent.

Last, innovation is driven by many things, not solely IP or solely necessity. But it’s fair to say that large-scale product efforts are MUCH likelier to begin when the company thinks it has a reasonable chance at protecting itself via IP. One needn’t lock up the entire product idea; merely getting claims to the best way (that they’ve thought of at that time) is enough. In fact, I’d argue that such patents actually *enhance* competition and enrich the marketplace: when Vibram patents their particular toe-shoe solution, their competitors have to innovate to come up with other ways to solve the same problem (or perhaps solve the problems that it finds VFF has left unsolved).

Oh, and Jefferson changed his thinking — he agreed that those detestable monopolies did encourage disclosures. In fact, as Sec. of State under Washington, he was the first authority to sign and formally grant patents in the US (before the first Patent Act was passed and the USPTO established).

I am disappointed in VFF. I bought a pair of Skele-toes because, like a lot of people, I was hesitant to drop $100 on a pair of shoes that I wasn’t even sure I could wear.

Since then, I have purchased my first pair of VFFs and now I’m having regrets. Not because of the shoe, but because of the company.

It seems to me that VFF wants to eliminate the competition to monopolize the market and justify their price point.

After all, if you can get a pair of shoes for less, why buy VFFs. And while Skele-toes are not the best alternative, they are also a beta version (if you will). There is room for refinement and with a few tweaks could be as good as VFFs.

And based on what the patent lawyer posted, if any other shoe company makes a shoe with toes, VFF can jump on them too.

So, basically, they can prevent anyone from entering the toe shoe market.

I hope Fila wins this one. If for no other reason than prevents VFF from monopolizing the market.

I was going to buy more VFFs. Now I’m having second thoughts about giving this company any more of my money.

I figured the lawsuit was coming, and patent infringement is merely the pretense. They just want to eliminate competition and continue dominating the market. Plain and simple.

If Vibram didn’t have this market cornered, they’d claim that competition “results in innovation, more choice, and lower prices for the consumer” just like every other company would state.

Also, regarding that middle finger ad: Real classy, Vibram. Did nothing to help your image there, kid.

I think a lot of you need to ask yourselves if you would have ever been exposed to minimalist shoes, much less toe shoes, if Vibram hadn’t been able to patent their idea. i seriously doubt if they would have ever brought VFF to market without a patent. No way would skeletoes exist without VFF being there first.

Secondly, for those that think Vibram is bigger than Fila you are way off base. Fila is 5 to 6 times larger. Vibram is the David here and Fila is the Goliath.

This sounds ridiculous!

What if two-legged pants were “patented”?!

Every other manufacturer would have to make one or three legged pants?

What about shirts with two arm-holes and one head-hole?

What about conventional shoes with only one toe-pocket?

Why aren’t gloves with five fingers “patented”?

Don’t real patents only cover a particular proprietary product, not the whole concept of a product?

Vibram’s patents should only protect their products from being copied or imitated, not prevent other similar but different products from being produced.

As a newbie to the whole minimalist shoe thing after buying my first pair of vibrams, I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t have known about the existence of toe shoes without seeing the billboard for fila’s skeletoes and not remembering the brand name, I googled “shoes with toes” and found the vibram website which led me to an authorized retailer where I tried and bought a pair of kso s. After 2 weeks with them, I can’t see myself wanting anything else… Thanks Fila!

Vibram makes the best shoes with articulated toes. The Fila version sucks. And of course the fake Chinese Vibrams were terrible quality.

However, I would like to see articulated toes become a normal feature on shoes forever, not just some fad. And that won’t happen if other (legitimate) companies are not allowed to produce shoes like that. I would like quality competition and widespread availability and acceptance.

So I’m dismayed to see Vibram spending their hard-earned money on destroying that future.

Back in the winter time, when both Fila and Vibram were present under the same roof at Atlanta Shoe Market, nobody had any reason to believe in a lawsuit.

The rep from Fila was showing me a difference between the two and soon later the rep from Vibram confirmed that Fila came close but not too close with their design.

Vibram’s only chance is their utility patent, which FILA does not violate. Vibram tried to sue another Five Toe Shoe company in the United States and failed. The case was dismissed.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Vibram knew they were going to lose this suit from the start. In my mind, all they’re trying to do is dissociate themselves with Fila, and let the public know that, despite the Fila’s being just different enough to get away with patent infringement, they are still a knockoff.
As someone who took up barefoot/proper running in high school simply because I could no longer find shoes that were made for anything resembling my feet, it bothers me that companies like Fila and now Nike (from what I’ve heard) are attempting to cash in on the toe-shoe market after marketing the exact opposite for so many years. @Justin said that there would still be innovation without patent law, and I agree, but there would be much less, because people would be afraid to invest their money without a guarantee of return. Fila, I flick my middle toe up at you.

TED talk about the benefits of lack of copyright protections in fashion.

I suppose the lawsuit depends on patenting an invention or something, but bottom line is, It depends on who can do a better job making the product and marketing their brand, and who can bring new innovations to market fastest. More progress for all and it really comes down to craftsmanship. I’m not buying counterfeit products because I don’t wanna give them my CC#, but do I have any reason to think that vibram has the best craftsmanship? (my main complaint about all of my VFFs is how quickly they wear through and seams come apart- will jump ship as soon as there is something better.)

IMHO, of course Fila are infringing Vibram’s patents—how could they not be? Assuming Vibram patented individual toe pockets, minimal sole thickness, zero arch support and no heel counter, I’d say their day in court will go their way.

As I understand it, this kind of legal action is a complex two-step to licensing the design from Vibram. Once it has been proved to the courts’ satisfaction that Fila has infringed, then Vibram can offer to license.

Me—I’m off for a run/mountain walk in my Sprints!

People here are throwing around terms like “ripoff” pretty freely here, and I don’t understand why. Are cars with steering wheels and gas pedals “ripoffs” of whoever first added those features? It’s a good thing that the ridiculous patent laws that we live with now didn’t exist back then, or all cars would have to have different control schemes. Or hey…you’re putting a roof on your house? I thought of that first…I’m going to sue you and force you to go without and get rained on. Please…this is silly.

People seem to be forgetting that patents expire after so many years…. so the analogies about shirts and pants are all moot, because they’ve been around for over a thousand years, so the patents on them would be long expired.

Anyway, i bought a pair of skeletoes 2.0 yesterday and so far, I love them. I solved the issue of not being enough velcro for the rear straps with a couple of small adhesive velcro strips I purchased from Walmart. Definitely thebmost comfortable shoea I’ve ever put on my feet.

One of guys in my workplace got these things after seeing some vffs. We traded shoes one day and they suck pretty bad. Vibram has put a lot into this and I can understand them wanting to make sure everyone knows they don’t have their hands in a sub par product.

I hate the very idea of a patent. If it weren’t for the idea of patents, many, many, many of the ‘top of the line’ items would have been redesigned and improved upon and the competition among other manufacturers and distributors would have driven the prices down to a reasonable price.

People can say what they want about protecting intellectual property, but the fact is, patents are the legalization of creative selfishness. Free from the obstruction that patents bring, who knows what might be created and offered up for the public good.

Vibram has a great product, toes shoes, it seems like such a natural, sensible design for footwear, unlike these clumsy, blocky tourture devices we currently wear. And I think it is a disaster that they have a monoploy on the design. That’s the only reason that they can sell them for 100 bucks. Had Vibram any kind of serious competition (which the patents prevent), the prices would nose dive and these podiatric godsends could be afforded by everyone, then blocky shoes would go the way of the dodo bird and we would all have much healthier feet.

In short business practices such as this compels me to boycott such industries.

I’m inclined to agree with Bryan:  While I’ve been intending to buy a pair of FiveFingers for quite a while now, this makes me dubious about giving Vibram my business.

The ad above giving the “middle toe”? Just illustrates the arrogance of Vibram. My guess is the CEO, President, and Marketing Director have this ad hanging on their office walls and thinks it’s oh, so clever. However, it displays unnecessary machismo to its own industry and is insulting to the innocent shoe buyer who stumbles upon it. Go Fila. F*** Vibram.

Hey there, Just wanted to give a Big Thanks to J.Owings and his site not to mention the Youtube vids!!. Im totally new to the barefoot idea but learned more and more about it after following a trail of breadcrumbs I found while trying to get a pair of Nike Rift split toe shoes (which only are avail in the UK pretty much) A link brought me “other” types of non-generic runners which eventually brought me to Vibram’s site and eventually to here.

After a lot of research and searching for retailers (not a lot in Canada) I discovered The main seller of vibrams was in the building directly next door to my office!!!.lol and to top it off they were having 50% sale on all shoes including Vibrams!! I bought a pair of Trek Ls and Komodo Ls and wear them constantly I’ve even convinced a few others to try them. So long and the short Thanks to all of you who take the time to write blogs and reviews because without them people like me would be stuck wearing a pair of old sneakers!

Thanks again
C Noble London Ont. Canada

To me it just shows that vibram has no confidence in their product. IF they truly thought they have the best design for “toe shoes” then they would encourage others to try it too. but instead its all about the almighty dollar. I wanted to buy a pair of VFF ever since i was in high school, but after this petty pissing contest Ive decided to take my feet elsewhere

Food for thought….. Even though Vibram is suing Fila for copying the individual toe pocket design, Vibram copied Fila with their new Maiori model by connecting the fourth and fifth toe. I own a pair of Skele-toes, and after an intense year, I’ve blown them out, and now im investing in a few new pairs of Five Fingers, I work my feet hard, so they had better be ready.

I purchased a pair of skeletoes and my feet and arch swells my legs get stiff after they have been worn… Please forward me more information on this concerning this matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *