Confirming the verdict of a lower court, the Paris Court of Appeals rejected a request by Stanislas Graire for the annulment of Geox’ patent rights over its waterproof “breathable sole,” but recognized the fact that the French honorary consul had invented the concept earlier. It announced its ruling on the eve of the Expo Riva Schuh show where Geox exhibited for the first time, targeting its European key accounts.
The court ordered Graire to pay all the judicial costs incurred in the patent dispute and damages of €8,000 to two companies that hold Geox’ rights, Pol Scarpe Sportive and Nottington Holdings, but Graire says he hopes to recover these expense by becoming a partner with another company, said to be based in the USA, that wants to develop a similar product in a lower segment of the market. The June 18 court verdict in effect upholds the patent rights of the defendant as well as the plaintiff, noting that there were some technical differences between the two. While proposing an amicable and “intelligent” settlement with Geox, Graire has been in contact recently with several industrial groups for the development of a footwear line with breathable soles. The first Geox patent is scheduled to expire in February 2009.
Graire’s lawyers say that he has the right to make use of his invention under French law because of its anteriority, which gives him a "right of personal possession," even though he failed to pay the dues for the renewal of his own patent registration, which expired on Aug. 31, 1990, nine months after Pol Scarpe Sportive filed its own patent application in behalf of Geox. The court is due to hold a hearing next Sept. 17 to confirm this part of its ruling.
Meanwhile, a Geox spokesman declines to confirm Italian press reports stating that the company is finally ready to float on the Milan Bourse. The company is reportedly going to put in its application at the beginning of August, and if the stock market authorities give the green light, the operation should be finalized by October. The flotation should enable Geox – the company that has made « the shoe that breathes » its core business - to finance and sustain its international expansion, with particular emphasis on the US market.
Geox has reportedly hired Lazard as consultants for the flotation, which is expected to value at €1.3-1.5 billion, while UBM, part of the Unicredit group, is global coordinator for Italy and Merrill Lynch is coordinating for the international markets. A total of 30 percent of the company’s equity will be floated through a private placement and an offer to the public. Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners and Bonelli Erede Pappalardo will look after the legal aspects of the operation.
In the last 3 years the group made no acquisitions, but succeeded in doubling revenues, thanks in part to the transformation of various licensing agreements into direct sales. In 2000 it increased turnover by 35 percent to €91.6 million, with Ebitda at €9.7 million. The turnover then jumped by 60 percent in 2001, by 22 percent in 2002 and by 41 percent in 2003. That amounted to a total of €254 million for last year, with Ebitda at 50.3 €million. Exports accounted for just 10 percent in 2000 but have grown to 40 percent today. The company forecasts good growth for the coming years, projecting annual hikes of around 40 percent.