Former Nike designers hit back at legal claims with counter lawsuit

Three designers who defected from Nike to Adidas have issued a counter lawsuit against their former employer, denying claims they stole trade secrets and accusing the sports giant of violating their privacy.

Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner filed a formal response and counter lawsuit on Tuesday, which stated: "None of the designers has ever passed any trade secret information to Adidas or any other competitor, and they will not ever do so."

The trio also alleged that Nike accessed their private social media accounts to gain information to support its claims.

"This lawsuit is based on Nike's breathtaking breach of the designers' personal privacy," said the counter document, which stated that "Nike monitored, read, copied and distributed its employees' personal communications with friends and family".

Nike is suing the trio for $10 million (£7 million) with allegations that they "stole" designs and trade secrets for competitor Adidas.

In response, the designers claimed that Nike's "trade secrets claims are meritless and have been made entirely without any basis in fact or law".

All three were senior figures in Nike's footwear, football and basketball design studios. They left the Oregon-based brand in September 2014 to head up the new Adidas Creative Studio in Brooklyn, which they will start once their non-competition agreement with Nike expires later this year.

The trio have also attacked the working culture at Nike – where Dolce was formerly the global basketball and training design director, Dekovich was global football design director and Miner was senior global footwear designer.

"The designers independently decided that the Nike corporate culture was stifling their creativity," the introduction to the counter lawsuit stated. "And they, along with many of their design co-workers, were alarmed about the culture of distrust and intimidation that permeates the relationships between Nike executives and Nike Design creatives."

The counter lawsuit specified five counterclaims, including violation of stored communications, violation of social media privacy and invasion of privacy.

The designers have also claimed that Nike is suing them "as part of a publicity stunt" and to discourage other employees from leaving the company.

Nike refused to comment on the ongoing dispute when contacted for a statement.