WASHINGTON (CN) – Triple Tee Golf and its owner can challenge Nike as the inventors of patented golf club technology, the Federal Circuit ruled, but they waited too long to accuse the sports retailer of misappropriating their trade secrets.
The federal appeals court revived Triple Tee and John Gillig’s claim that they are the true inventors of golf club technology used by Nike, but upheld dismissal of their trade secrets claim.
Triple Tee first sued Nike in 2004, claiming Gillig told John Thomas Stites III about his unique designs for golf clubs. Stites later joined Nike, where he allegedly used Gillig’s designs for a new type of club.
The district court dismissed that case for lack of standing, because Triple Tee couldn’t prove that Gillig had assigned all of his rights in the trade secrets to the company.
Triple Tee sued again in 2008, this time with Gillig as a co-plaintiff, alleging that Nike misappropriated their trade secrets, and that they were the true inventors of the patented technology.
Nike asked the district court to dismiss the complaint, claiming it stemmed from the “same nucleus of operative facts” as in the first lawsuit. The district court agreed, but Triple Tee and Gillig successfully appealed their claims over who invented the technology.
Judge Timothy Dyk said the earlier case doesn’t preclude all claims.
“[T]he only issue determined in the earlier lawsuit was that there was no assignment from Gillig to Triple Tee of any trade secret rights in the year 2000,” Dyk wrote. “That determination has no bearing on Gillig’s inventorship interests.”
The court concluded that Gillig was too late in filing his trade secret claims, but it reinstated the inventorship claims.