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Nike Sues Ex-Designer and Ralph Lauren Over Non-Compete Agreement

And in the same week, finalized a lifetime contract with LeBron James.
Photo: Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images

Photo: Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images

By now, it should serve as no surprise that Nike, the biggest apparel company in the U.S., is not one you want to mess with — something a former designer is learning the hard way.

According to documents filed on Monday by the Oregon U.S. District Court and obtained by Fashionista, Nike Inc. is suing its ex-design executive, Matthew Millward, along with Ralph Lauren Corp., over claims that Millward violated his one-year non-compete agreement when accepting a job at Club Monaco (which is owned by Polo Ralph Lauren). The court documents allege that Millward, now Club Monaco's Vice President of Men's Design, resigned from Nike on Oct. 6, 2015 and left with "broad access to many of [Nike's] most confidential design and planning materials." 

The documents also note that Millward, who joined Nike in Nov. 2012, "was intimately familiar with and responsible for" elements of the brand's sportswear line, as well as its official "Medal Stand" jackets U.S. athletes will wear during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Nike states that "many of those products are still in the planning phase and have yet to reach the market." The file continues: "Despite notice from Nike, both Millward and RLC have chosen to continue violating Nike’s legal rights. Accordingly, to protect its trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information, Nike has no choice but to bring this action."

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Ralph Lauren declined to comment, while a Nike spokesperson offered that the company has "nothing further to add beyond the court documents."

But when one door closes, LeBron James signs a lifetime deal with your business (that's how that saying goes, right?). On Tuesday, Nike announced that it had finalized a lifelong partnership with the NBA and Cleveland Cavaliers star fresh off his initial seven-year, $90-million contract with the brand. Nike is keeping mum on the details (for now, at least), but let's do some simple arithmetic: Let's say James, now at age 30, will live a long, comfortable life until he's 78, the average expectancy of an American male. That leaves us with 48 years of Nike love to go, and roughly 6.8 installments of that first seven-year deal. That brings us to a $612-million contract.

"We have already built a strong LeBron business over the past 12 years, and we see the potential for this to continue to grow throughout his playing career and beyond," the company said in a release.

May Nike and James have a happy wedded life.