FiveFingers running shoesBuilding buzz around your product is usually a good thing. But creating a product out of buzz not necessarily so. Vibram USA Inc., a company promoting their FiveFingers minimalist or barefoot running shoes, recently found this out the hard way thanks to some class action lawyers.

Barefoot running has long had its advocates, dating back to at least 1960 when Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian runner, won the Olympic marathon running barefoot (turbo-powered shoes would be my footwear of choice). A recent popular book helped stoke the flames for minimalist shoes.  So perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone tried to commercialize the idea.  Of course, it’s hard to commercialize literally running barefoot so “minimalist shoes,” including a shoe with toes, that were the subject of this case, were designed as the next best thing.

Vibram in its marketing touted numerous health and injury-prevention benefits.  And the shoes were a commercial success.

However, the complaint in the case alleged several difficulties.  First, there were allegedly no studies on the shoes themselves.  Instead, Vibram allegedly largely relied upon anecdotal evidence and inferences as to how running barefoot might be beneficial. 
Continue Reading Running Shoe Manufacture, Vibram USA Inc., Finds Itself Bare of Substantiation

AirRamIn today’s global marketplace, it is common to expand the marketing footprint of successful consumer products from one geographic market to multiple.  In doing so, it is tempting to leverage economies of scale regarding the substantiation for any advertising claims associated with the consumer product.  However, when moving a successful international product into the United States market, special care should be taken to ensure that the substantiation relied upon is relevant to U.S. consumers, as the recent NAD decision in GTech instructs.

GTech manufactures and markets the AirRAM cordless vacuum cleaner.  The AirRAM is a very popular vacuum cleaner in the U.K. which touts performance that is equal to that of a corded upright vacuum cleaner.  GTech sought similar success in the U.S., recently introducing its AirRAM vacuum into the U.S. market.  However, GTech’s marketing claims were challenged within the U.S. by Dyson at the NAD.

Among other marketing claims, GTech claimed that its AirRAM cordless vacuum performed as well as a corded upright vacuum.  However, to substantiate its claim, GTech relied upon the substantiation it developed for the European market.  Specifically, GTech’s substantiation was based upon vacuums that are offered for sale in Europe tested according to a European test protocol (IEC 60312).

Continue Reading Substantiation—One Size Does Not Fit All