With Reebok celebrating 25 years of The Pump I figured it was time to shed light on a situation that happened some 20+ years ago. These days no one talks about a massive lawsuit filed against Reebok in the early 90’s that specifically named the Pump technology. Lets be real, Reebok’s Pump technology was a great idea but it wasn’t completely original. Sure, Reebok put together an awesome package complete with nice details like a basketball pump for the basketball shoe and a fuzzy tennis ball pump for their court victory pump but inflatable technology in shoes was around well before Reebok permanently locked down the technology. For instance, there was Fillmore Moore’s pneumatic insole (which was patented in 1893), then there was the Aero Shoe corporation’s inflatable running shoe (which released in 1983) and from what I’ve been able to gather then there’s this guy, Byron Donzis.
(Image via Bruce Bennett/Houston Post)
Donzis was an inventor (he passed away in 2012) who’s name appears on over 35 patents and an individual that we should be paying tribute to for our beloved Reebok Pump. According to this 1993 article, representatives from Donzi’s Research center in Houston, showed Reebok the design for inflatable shoes back in 1987 and received a patent for it in 1989 (while Reebok’s was still pending). Reebok then allegedly entered a formal agreement not to use the information without getting permission from him, but went ahead and implemented the Pump technology into their shoes anyway. Donzi’s went on to sue Reebok for 1 Billion dollars in 1993 (Dr Evil voice) at which time Reebok’s attorneys stated “the lawsuits claims are “without merit” and the company developed its shoe without any information from Donzi’s.” The attorney for Reebok went on to further explain that “we have always been aware of (Donzi’s) patents and done our work so it falls outside the claims of those patents”. Oh really? Donzi’s 1989 patent refered to “a built in pump” that can alter the air pressure in the shoes. Hmmmmmmm…… Anyhow, Reebok sued other companies like L.A. Gear and Spalding for using their technology (see the Regulator Pump and Typhoon) and won, so your thinking they should definitely be able to defend themselves against someone trying to sue them for infringement right? WRONG. Reebok would eventually go on to settle with Donzis in 1995 for an undisclosed amount that at the time Donzis said “he was very pleased with.” As part of the settlement Reebok acquired the rights to some of Donzi’s technology and the rest is history. So, next time you celebrate the Pump don’t forget to raise a glass for Byron Donzis.