Abebe Bikila’s Son Sues Vibram

           (CN) – The son of Abele Bikila – a legendary Ethiopian runner who won the 1960 Olympic marathon barefoot – claims that Vibram USA, renowned for its sturdy shoe soles, is using his father’s name for profit, without permission.
     Teferi Bikila sued Vibram USA on Monday in Tacoma, Wash. Federal Court.
     He seeks punitive damages for unjust enrichment, false designation of origin, consumer law violations, and violations of the Washington Personality Rights Act.
     Bikila claims Vibram improperly uses his father’s name on at least six models of its “Fivefinger” shoes, which it introduced to the United States in 2010. The shoes “are intended to mimic biomechanical properties of barefoot running while providing the protection of a conventional shoe,” Bikila says in the complaint.
     Vibram soles became famous in the 1960s as hippies and others headed to the hills for long hikes. Vibram soles became a standard against which other soles were measured. The U.S. running revolution followed on its sturdy heels.
     Abebe Bikila, then 28, won the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome after kicking off his shoes, which bothered him. His time of 2:15:16 – 5:16 miles for 26.2 miles – set an Olympic record. Bikila completed his barefoot run in front of the 1,890-year-old Colosseum, and became a national hero in Ethiopia. But his accomplishment barely registered in the United States, as yet untouched by distance running.
     Four years later, Bikila won the Olympic Marathon in Tokyo. His time of 2:12:11 – 5:04 miles 26.2 times in a row – set another Olympic record.
     Bikila’s 1964 Olympic gold medal was remarkable not just because it set an Olympic record, and because Bikila was the first runner to win Olympic gold twice in the marathon, but because he won the race just 40 days after undergoing an appendectomy.
     In 1969, Bikila lost the use of his legs in a car accident. He died in 1973 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was 41. His death made more international news than his two Olympic victories did.
     Frank Shorter’s victory in the Olympic marathon in 1972 in Munich set off a long-distance running boom in the United States. When Shorter finished second to Waldemar Cierpinski in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, the U.S. running craze intensified.
     Twenty-five thousand people ran in U.S. marathons that year in the United States, few of them women. Only 10 percent of the competitors in U.S. marathons were women in 1980.
     In 2014, of the 541,000 people who completed marathons in the United States, 233,600 of them – 43 percent – were women.
     In his federal lawsuit, Teferi Abele Bikila claims that Vibram used his father’s image to push Vibram products in the United States and around the world.
     He objects, particularly, to the fact the Vibram filed a U.S. trademark application for the word “Bikila,” for shoes, on May 15, 2009.
     The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the trademark on July 20, 2010.
     After assigning its trademark to an Italian affiliate November 2011, Vibram advertised and sold at least six Bikila-trademarked styles of shoes in the United States.
     In his 10-page lawsuit, Teferi Bikila seeks a constructive trust, accounting, punitive damages and legal fees.
     He is represented by Alexander Trauman, of Portland, Ore.
     The world record for the marathon became a sub-5-minute mile on Dec. 3, 1967, when Derek Clayton, of Australia, ran a 2:09:34 in Fukuoka, Japan.
     The world record today is 2:02:57-a remarkable 4:42 pace per mile, for 26.2 miles. Dennis Kimetto, of Kenya, set the record in the 2014 Berlin Marathon.
     Today’s women’s record of 2:15:25 – a 5:11 mile pace – set by Paula Radcliffe of England in the 2003 London Marathon, would have put her 9 seconds behind Abebe Bikila in his 1960 triumph in Rome.
     The marathon distance of 26.2 miles is based, loosely, upon the distance from the pass at Marathon, Greece, to Athens. Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, is believed to have run 24.85 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of Athens’ triumph over the Persians in 490 B.C.
     As the story goes, Pheidippides told Athens, “Nike!” – Victory! – then died. Historians who believe the story say that Pheidippides did not die from that run, but from 200 miles he’d run in the week or so before, carrying messages.
     The official modern marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards was established for the 1908 Olympic marathon in London, so the queen could see the runners take off as she sat on a balcony at Windsor Castle.
     Bikila, of Tigard, Ore., is represented by Alexander Trauman, with Motschenbacher & Blattner, of Portland.

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