The family of the late Ethiopian marathon champion Abebe Bikila is suing Vibram for allegedly using his name without permission, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tacoma, Wash., claims that Vibram didn’t seek permission for trademarking the name “Bikila” and naming several of its minimally designed FiveFingers footwear running shoes after him.
Abebe Bikila became famous for winning the 1960 Olympic marathon without shoes, running barefoot through the streets of Rome to win the race in a world and Olympic record time of 2:15:16. He also won the 1964 Olympic marathon in Tokyo wearing shoes, setting another world record of 2:12:11. He died in 1973 from complications stemming from a car accident four years earlier.
Vibram trademarked the “Bikila” name in 2010, according to the Associated Press, and has several models using the name, including the Bikila EVO and the Bikila LS. Vibram touts its products as “barefoot shoes” that encourage a more natural forefoot strike while running.
The family is seeking at least $15 million in damages, according to the AP. “It’s important that his legacy be respected,” Bekele’s son, Teferi Bikila, told the AP.
Last year, Vibram agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle a 2012 class-action lawsuit that claimed runners were injured wearing its FiveFingers shoes.
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