Great Scott! Nike Releases ‘Back to the Future’ Shoes
Marty McFly nerds, get ready. Your dreams of going ‘back to the future’ a la everyone’s favorite zany time-traveling epic are now closer than ever before. This week, Nike announced the release of limited-edition, limited-quantity Air Mags straight from the movie, Back to the Future II. One thousand, five hundred pairs of these shoes were made specially for an auction on eBay benefitting the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
What does this have to do with intellectual property? Well, around a year ago, Nike filed a patent for automatic-lacing shoes that included a lighting system. On its application, the shoe was described as having an “automatic fastening system including a tightened position and a loosened position; a lighting system comprising at least one lighting device, the lighting system in communication with the automatic fastening system; and wherein the at least one lighting device is in an illuminated state when the automatic fastening system is in a tightened position and wherein the at least one lighting device is in a non-illuminated state when the automatic fastening system is in a loosened position.” There was a lot of buzz over the shoes about the connections with the film, as well as the possibility of self-lacing shoes being out on the market. The current incarnation of the Air Mags does not contain an automatic lacing feature, and there may be some reason as to why. The idea for self-tying shoes has been thought of before. In fact, patents exist for shoes with automatic string tightening mechanisms as early as 1999, and variants thereof earlier than that. Regardless, Nike may have a number of reasons for not including the self-tying feature.
Even after the dust settles on the cool-factor of Nike’s release and patenting technology, there is something to keep in mind when it comes to patenting inventions—there is an entire market out there of consumers that could actually use shoes that tie themselves. Individuals with decreased motor skill functionality, older individuals with arthritic problems, and folks who really hate loafers. While Air Mags may just be a novelty for a lot of people, for folks with learning disabilities, not having to struggle to tie shoelaces may be one less daily hurdle to go through. So as fun as it is to talk about the technology in conjunction with the famed film, it’s also important to remember the impact this kind of technology really can have on a person’s day-to-day.