Vibram USA and its parent company in Italy, Vibram SpA, filed a complaint last July 6 in a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, alleging that the “Skele-Toes” range introduced by Fila USA last February infringes on three U.S. patents. The main patent, issued last Oct. 5, covers “footwear having independently articulable toe portions.”

Claiming that it pioneered the minimalism trend in footwear in 2005, Vibram is requesting compensation for damages and a court injunction prohibiting further sales of Fila's line. The concept was originally invented in Italy, but Vibram has implemented it mostly in the U.S., where it has also partnered with Merrell and New Balance by developing barefoot sole platforms that are complementary to its own FiveFingers line.

Fila USA has responded to Vibram's complaint by saying that it will vigorously defend itself against its allegations, stating that it found them to be without merit. It said it developed its own line after determining that it was not infringing any patents.

“Though Vibram is generally credited with launching the minimalist trend in the footwear industry, Fila Skele-Toes joins a long history of shoes with articulated toes and represents a more accessible approach to this rapidly expanding minimalist footwear category,” Fila USA said.