Nike Reveals Recovered Emails, Texts In Lawsuit Against Former Designers

Using computer forensics, Nike says the three ex-designers who jumped ship to Adidas used their work computers to negotiate the switch.

Nike Reveals Recovered Emails, Texts In Lawsuit Against Former Designers

The lawsuit between Nike and three designers–Marc Dolce, Mark Miner, and Denis Dekovic, who turned in their swoosh to start a hip new design studio for rival Adidas–is starting to heat up. After filing a $10 million lawsuit against the designers on Monday, the Portland-based footwear company has submitted new evidence to the court that cast Dekovic in a negative light, citing computer forensic evidence to show a conspiracy was afoot.

According to court filings obtained by The Oregonian, after the three Adidas designers announced that they would be leaving the company, Nike executive Holly Hearn packed up their company laptops, hard drives, and thumb drives, and turned them over to CyTech Services, a Virginia company specializing in computer forensics. CyTech managed to recover a number of deleted files from the devices, allegedly showing that Dekovic was already planning on leaving for Adidas as early as May.

This is all Nike’s side of the story, mind you, but the juiciest detail CyTech found in was an August 29th email from Dekovic to Taura Dean, an Adidas headhunter. In the email, Dekovic lays out the exact conditions in which he would leave Nike, asking for a $500,000 salary, a $200,000 sign-on bonus, a performance bonus, a $500,000 retention bonus, and a $60,000 housing allowance. And since Dekovic had signed a non-compete agreement with Nike preventing him from going to work for Adidas or other shoemakers for a year after he left the company, Dekovic further asks for insurance coverage, moving expenses, paid trips to New York, and help from Adidas resolving immigration issues.

That last point is one that particularly sticks in Nike’s craw, according to the Oregonian. A Croatian citizen, Dekovic worked legally in America under the terms of a L-1A visa, which allowed him to stay in the country for seven years. His seven years exhausted, the only way Dekovic could obtain a new L-1A visa was by spending a full year outside of America. So Nike paid to relocate Dekovic and his family to Italy for a year, starting in July… a period when Dekovic was already in talks with Adidas. Nike argues they would never have paid to relocate him if they knew Dekovic meant to leave. Yet despite the fact that discussions with Adidas were ongoing, Nike says that Dekovic continued to tell his superiors he had no plans of leaving the company.

“I inquired regarding Dekovic’s long-term career plans, including whether he wanted to remain employed with Nike,” Nike’s senior director of human resources, Abby Ornstein said in a related deposition, referring to a meeting with Dekovic on August 15, a little more than a month before the Adidas trio announced that they’d be leaving the company to start a competing design studio. “Dekovic repeatedly informed me during that meeting that he ‘loved’ Nike and its brand, and that it was his desire to remain employed with Nike.”

In addition to the up to $10 million in damages they are seeking, the Oregonian says Nike is paying the three exiting designers half their annual salaries — between $152,000 and $188,000, depending on the designer — during the non-compete year specified in their agreement… a year in which Dekovic, Dolce, and Miner are obviously gearing up to work for Adidas. Nike is asking that, in addition to damages, this money be repaid to them if they win their case.

So far, no part of the documents cited by the Oregonian have revealed a smoking gun when it comes to the company’s claims that Dekovic and his colleagues handed over trade secrets to Adidas when they left the company. The filings do, however, lay out a narrative that Nike was played by Dekovic, and that he violated the spirit — if not the letter — of the non-compete agreement he signed with the company. If this case keeps on going the way it has been, 2015 should be a juicy year for sneakerheads.

Read more at The Oregonian.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at