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Week Ahead – Earnings season is back

US It is now all about inflation data.  The focus was temporarily on the labour market but everyone knows that the Fed is primarily concerned with what…

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US

It is now all about inflation data.  The focus was temporarily on the labour market but everyone knows that the Fed is primarily concerned with what is happening with inflation. 

Wall Street will first get a look at producer prices on Wednesday and then CPI the next day. August data showed high inflation remains well-entrenched as shelter and food prices surged, while gas prices softened. Expectations for the September inflation report are for inflation pressures to remain hot.  The consumer price index is expected to increase by 0.2% for the month and 8.1% over the past year.   

Traders will also pay close attention to the FOMC minutes that should show a consistent hawkish stance to fight persistently high inflation. It will also be another busy week of Fed speak as seven FOMC members will be making appearances.  Evans and Brainard speak on Monday. On Tuesday, Mester speaks to the Economics Club of NY.  Wednesday sees Kashkari and Barr speak before the minutes are released. Cook makes the last Fed appearance on Friday. 

Earnings season also begins with the big banks.  This earnings season will likely be filled with hiring freezes/layoff announcements, cost-cutting saving measures, and mostly downbeat outlooks.  The health of the consumer is weakening, and Wall Street will want to see how bad banks assess the health of the consumer.  

EU 

Three weeks to go until the next ECB meeting and it’s still not clear whether the central bank will opt for 75 basis points or 100. The decision to super-charge the tightening cycle is not an easy one as policymakers are desperately concerned about the economic ramifications and the risk of going too far too quickly. Final inflation readings combined with various ECB appearances – including President Christine Lagarde – could shed further light on which way the central bank is currently leaning.

UK 

Where do we begin? The key event next week may well be the expiry of the BoE’s gilt-buying intervention on 14 October which some fear could spark another exodus from UK government bonds as the backstop is removed. Those fears may be overblown but investors may only be able to relax again once successfully removed.

We’ll hear from a variety of BoE policymakers next week, all of whom will likely face a barrage of questions related to its bond-buying, the government and its mini-budget and of course the economy. On top of that, there’s a selection of economic data including the jobs report on Tuesday, and GDP and industrial production on Wednesday. 

Another week of question dodging and scripted “answers” is on the cards for the government as it desperately scrambles to clear up the mess it so rapidly created. 

Russia

The focus remains on Ukraine as Russia continues to lose ground in territories it previously captured. Meanwhile, the West is working towards fresh sanctions and potential caps on Russian energy prices in response to the illegal annexation of four regions it currently partially controls in Ukraine. 

South Africa

Another quiet week with only tier three data scheduled for release.

Turkey

It’s that time of the week when I rant about Turkey’s ridiculous monetary policy experiment and its damaging consequences at a time of global tightening. Inflation rose above 83% in September, a victory for President Erdogan no doubt as forecasts put it closer to 85%. Next week we’ll get labour market figures on Monday and current account on Tuesday (spoiler, it hasn’t been fixed by soaring inflation and the weakest ever exchange rate).

Switzerland

Further rate hikes are coming, the question is when and how much. Markets are pricing in a coin flip between 50 and 75 basis points but will the SNB wait until 15 December to pull the trigger? Inflation eased to 3.3% in September, a level Chairman Thomas Jordan suggested the central bank won’t tolerate (anything above target, in fact). We’ll hear from him again on Tuesday. 

China

Next Friday, China’s CPI data will be released and is expected to be around 2.5%, comfortably within target. Against the backdrop of a sharp correction from a recent peak in the US dollar, USD/CNH fell by 3.44%, easing pressure on the currency. The 20th National Congress of China will be held next Sunday, 16 October. The market generally expects that adjusting the pandemic prevention and control policy may be one of the important themes of this meeting.

India

WPI inflation data for September is expected to show price pressures easing next week, which could enable the RBI to consider slowing its tightening cycle. 

Australia

A quiet week following the RBA decision to slow the pace of tightening last week with a 25 basis point hike. This was below market expectations of 50bps and made the RBA the first major central bank to ease off the brake. Consumer inflation expectations on Thursday may be of some interest.

New Zealand

In New Zealand the central bank did not ease off the brake, opting instead to maintain its pace with another 50bps hike, taking the cash rate to 3.5%. The market expects the central bank’s final interest rate target for this round to be around 4.5% according to the Refinitiv rate probability tracker. A tight labour market and lower immigration are creating more sustained domestic inflation pressures and the RBNZ believes there’s still more work to do. On the data front, the BusinessNZ manufacturing index will be released on Thursday.

Japan

Japanese FX intervention is a hot topic once more as it trades around 145 to the dollar. This is just shy of where the Ministry of Finance intervened a couple of weeks ago and around the level the BoJ conducted a rate check the week prior. Another hot US jobs report on Friday may have made intervention more likely.

The BoJ is unlikely to tweak its yield curve control policy any time soon. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said it would continue to adhere to the easing policy and keep the yield curve ceiling at 0.25% and the benchmark interest rate at -0.1 %. No changes are expected until after Kuroda’s term ends in March 2023. Still, PPI data on Thursday may be of interest. 

Singapore

GDP data on Friday is the only notable economic release. Growth is seen slowing to 3.4% in Q3.


Economic Calendar

Sunday, Oct. 9

Economic Data/Events

China aggregate financing, money supply, new yuan loans expected this week

Austria holds its presidential election

Monday, Oct. 10

Economic Data/Events

US bond market is closed in observance of Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day. The stock market will be open.

Norway CPI

Greece CPI

Australia foreign reserves

Singapore MAS monetary policy statement, GDP

Canadian financial markets are closed in observance of Thanksgiving

China’s financial markets open after Golden Week Holiday

The 2022 annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank kick off in Washington. Through Oct. 16

Fed’s Brainard and Evans speak at the NABE annual meeting in Chicago

ECB chief economist Lane gives opening remarks at the online ECB Conference on Monetary Policy

ECB’s Centeno speaks at a meeting in Lisbon of central banks from Portuguese-speaking countries

Scotland’s First Minister Sturgeon delivers the keynote speech to Scottish National Party’s National Conference in Aberdeen

Tuesday, Oct. 11

Economic Data/Events

Australia consumer confidence, business conditions, household spending

China FDI

Italy industrial production

Japan BoP current account

Mexico international reserves

New Zealand truckometer heavy traffic index, card spending

South Africa manufacturing production

Turkey current account

UK jobless claims, unemployment

IMF publishes its World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report

Fed’s Mester speaks at a webinar hosted by the Economic Club of New York

BOE Governor Bailey speaks at the Institute of International Finance annual meeting in Washington. Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe speaks on a panel on global payments at the IIF meeting

ECB chief economist Lane delivers the keynote speech at the 7th SUERF, CGEG, EIB and Societe Generale conference on “EU and US Perspectives: New Directions for Economic Policy” in New York

SNB President Jordan delivers the annual O. John Olcay Lecture at the Peterson Institute in Washington

The Bretton Woods Committee International Council meeting begins. Through Oct. 14

BOJ announces the outright purchase amount of government securities

Wednesday, Oct. 12

Economic Data/Events

US PPI, FOMC minutes, mortgage applications

Eurozone industrial production

India CPI, industrial production

Japan machinery orders

Mexico industrial production

New Zealand home sales, net migration

Thailand foreign reserves, forward contracts

Turkey industrial production

UK industrial production, trade, monthly GDP

IMF publishes its Fiscal Monitor report

The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report is published

EU energy ministers meet in Prague

Fed’s Bowman speaks at a Money Marketeers event in New York

Fed’s Kashkari participates in a town hall discussion at an economic development summit in Rhinelander, Wisconsin

ECB’s Christine Lagarde, de Cos and Knot speak at the IIF annual meeting in Washington. Knot also speaks at the IMF meeting in Washington

BOE’s Haskel delivers the keynote speech at the 7th World KLEMS conference in investment and productivity at the University of Manchester

BOE’s Mann speaks at a webinar hosted by the Canadian Association for Business Economics titled “Global Macro Conjuncture and Challenges Facing Small Open Economies.”

BOE chief economist Pill speaks at an event hosted by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Glasgow

RBA’s Ellis speaks at Citi Australia & New Zealand Investment Conference in Sydney

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee delivers the opening keynote speech at the two-day BritCham Hong Kong Summit

Bloomberg Invest New York two-day conference begins

Thursday, Oct. 13

Economic Data/Events

US CPI, initial jobless claims

Germany CPI

Sweden CPI

Australia inflation expectations 

China medium-term lending

Japan PPI

New Zealand food prices

Mexico central bank releases minutes from its Sept. 29 meeting

ECB’s de Guindos speaks at the “Mercado de Fusiones y Adquisiciones en España y Europa” conference organized by PwC and Expansión

Riksbank’s Breman speaks in a roundtable on the economic outlook for Sweden at the Citi Macro Forum in Washington

G-20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Washington

Italy’s newly elected parliament convenes for the first time

IEA publishes its oil market report

EIA oil inventory report

Friday, Oct. 14

Economic Data/Events

US retail sales, business inventories, University of Michigan consumer sentiment

US banks kick off earnings season: JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley report

China CPI, PPI, trade

France CPI

Poland CPI 

Canada existing home sales, manufacturing sales

India wholesale prices, trade

Japan money stock

New Zealand PMI

Philippines overseas remittances

UK RICS home prices

BOE emergency bond buying is set to end

BOE publishes its quarterly bulletin

ECB’S Holzmann speaks at a conference hosted by the OECD and Austrian National Bank in Vienna

Australia ends mandatory Covid-19 isolation requirements

Sovereign Rating Updates

Czech Republic (S&P)

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EY Eyes Comeback for Biopharma M&A

EY noted that the total value of biopharma M&A in 2022 was $88 billion, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021. The $88 billion accounted for most of the…

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A recent trickle of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) announcements in the billion-dollar-and-up range suggests that biopharma may be ready to resume dealmaking this year—although the value and number of deals isn’t expected to return to the highs seen just before the pandemic.

2022 ended with a handful of 10- and 11-figure M&A deals, led by Amgen’s $27.8 billion buyout of Horizon Therapeutics, announced December 13. The dealmaking continued into January with three buyouts announced on the first day of the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference: AstraZeneca agreed to acquire CinCor Pharma for up to $1.8 billion, while Chiesi Farmaceutici agreed to shell out up to $1.48 billion cash for Amryt, and Ipsen Group said it will purchase Albireo Pharma for $952 million-plus.

Biopharmas generated about $88 billion in M&A deals in 2022, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021. The $88 billion accounted for most of the $135 billion in 124 deals in the life sciences. The number of biopharma deals fell 17%, to 75 deals from 90. The other 49 deals totaling $47 million consisted of transactions in “medtech,” which includes diagnostics developers and companies specializing in “virtual health” such as telemedicine. [EY]
EY—the professional services firm originally known as Ernst & Young—recently noted that the total value of biopharma M&A in 2022 was $88 billion, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021 [See Chart]. The $88 billion accounted for most of the $135 billion in 124 deals in the life sciences. That $135 billion figure is less than half the record-high $313 billion recorded in 2019, including $261 billion in 70 biopharma deals.

The number of biopharma deals fell 17% to 75 deals from 90. EY’s numbers include only deals greater than $100 million. The other 49 deals totaling $47 million consisted of transactions in “medtech,” which includes diagnostics developers and companies specializing in “virtual health” such as telemedicine.

We expect this to be a more active year as the sentiment starts to normalize a little bit,” Subin Baral, EY Global Life Sciences Deals Leader, told GEN Edge.

Baral is not alone in foreseeing a comeback for biopharma M&A.

John Newman, PhD, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, predicted last week in a research note that biopharma companies will pursue a growing number of smaller cash deals in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion this year. He said rising interest rates are discouraging companies from taking on larger blockbuster deals that require buyers to take on larger sums of debt.

“We look for narrowing credit spreads and lower interest rates to encourage larger M&A ($50 billion and more) deals. We do not anticipate many $50B+ deals that could move the XBI +5%,” Newman said. (XBI is the SPDR S&P Biotech Electronic Transfer Fund, one of several large ETFs whose fluctuations reflect investor enthusiasm for biopharma stock.)

Newman added: “We continue to expect a biotech swell in 2023 that may become an M&A wave if credit conditions improve.”

Foreseeing larger deals than Newman and Canaccord Genuity is PwC, which in a commentary this month predicted: “Biotech deals in the $5–15 billion range will be prevalent and will require a different set of strategies and market-leading capabilities across the M&A cycle.”

Those capabilities include leadership within a specific therapeutic category, for which companies will have to buy and sell assets: “Prepared management teams that divest businesses that are subscale while doubling down on areas where leadership position and the right to win is tangible, may be positioned to deliver superior returns,” Glenn Hunzinger, PwC’s U.S. Pharma & Life Science Leader, and colleagues asserted.

The Right deals

Rising interest and narrowing credit partially explain the drop-off in deals during 2022, EY’s Baral said. Another reason was sellers adjusting to the drop in deal valuations that resulted from the decline of the markets which started late in 2021.

Subin Baral, EY Global Life Sciences Deals Leader

“It took a little bit longer to realize the reality of the market conditions on the seller side. But on the buyer side, the deals that they were looking at were not just simply a valuation issue. They were looking at the quality of the assets. And you can see that the quality deals—the right deals, as we call them—are still getting done,” Baral said.

The right deals, according to Baral, are those in which buyers have found takeover targets with a strong, credible management team, solid clinical data, and a clear therapeutic focus.

“Rare disease and oncology assets are still dominating the deal making, particularly oncology because your addressable market continues to grow,” Baral said. “Unfortunately, what that means is the patient population is growing too, so there’s this increased unmet need for that portfolio of assets.”

Several of 2022’s largest M&A deals fit into that “right” category, Baral said—including Amgen-Horizon, Pfizer’s $11.6-billion purchase of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals and the $6.7-billion purchase of Arena Pharmaceuticals (completed in March 2022); and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $4.1-billion buyout of Turning Point Therapeutics.

“Quality companies are still getting funded one way or the other. So, while the valuation dropped, people were all expecting a flurry of deals because they are still companies with a shorter runway of cash that will be running to do deals. But that really didn’t happen from a buyer perspective,” Baral said. “The market moved a little bit from what was a seller’s market for a long time, to what we would like to think of as the pendulum swinging towards a buyers’ market.”

Most biopharma M&A deals, he said, will be “bolt-on” acquisitions in which a buyer aims to fill a gap in its clinical pipeline or portfolio of marketed drugs through purchases that account for less than 25% of a buyer’s market capitalization.

Baral noted that a growing number of biopharma buyers are acquiring companies with which they have partnered for several years on drug discovery and/or development collaborations. Pfizer acquired BioHaven six months after agreeing to pay the company up to $1.24 billion to commercialize rimegepant outside the U.S., where the migraine drug is marketed as Nurtec® ODT.

“There were already some kind of relationships there before these deals actually happened. But that also gives an indication that there are some insights to these targets ahead of time for these companies to feel increasingly comfortable, and pay the valuation that they’re paying for them,” Baral said.

$1.4 Trillion available

Baral sees several reasons for increased M&A activity in 2023. First, the 25 biopharma giants analyzed by EY had $1.427 trillion available as of November 30, 2022, for M&A in “firepower”—which EY defines as a company’s capacity to carry out M&A deals based on the strength of its balance sheet, specifically the amount of capital available for M&A deals from sources that include cash and equivalents, existing debt, and market cap.

That firepower is up 11% from 2021, and surpasses the previous record of $1.22 trillion in 2014, the first year that EY measured the available M&A capital of large biopharmas.

Unlike recent years, Baral said, biopharma giants are more likely to deploy that capital on M&A this year to close the “growth gap” expected to occur over the next five years as numerous blockbuster drugs lose patent exclusivity and face new competition from lower-cost generic drugs and biosimilars.

“There is not enough R&D in their pipeline to replenish a lot of their revenue. And this growth gap is coming between 2024 and 2026. So, they don’t have a long runway to watch and stay on the sidelines,” Baral said.

This explains buyers’ interest in replenishing pipelines with new and innovative treatments from smaller biopharmas, he continued. Many smaller biopharmas are open to being acquired because declining valuations and limited cash runways have increased investor pressure on them to exit via M&A. The decline of the capital markets has touched off dramatic slowdowns in two avenues through which biopharmas have gone public in recent years—initial public offerings (IPOs) and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

EY recorded just 17 IPOs being priced in the U.S. and Europe, down 89% from 158 a year earlier. The largest IPO of 2022 was Prime Medicine’s initial offering, which raised $180.3 million in net proceeds for the developer of a “search and replace” gene editing platform.

Another 12 biopharmas agreed to SPAC mergers with blank-check companies, according to EY, with the largest announced transaction (yet to close at deadline) being the planned $899 million merger of cancer drug developer Apollomics with Maxpro Capital Acquisition.

“For the smaller players, the target biotech companies, their alternate source of access to capital pathways such as IPOs and SPACs is shutting down on them. So how would the biotech companies continue to fund themselves? Those with quality assets are still getting funded through venture capital or other forms of capital,” Baral said. “But in general, there is not a lot of appetite for the biotech that is taking that risk.

Figures from EY show a 37% year-to-year decline in the total value of U.S. and European VC deals, to $16.88 billion in 2022 from $26.62 billion in 2021. Late-stage financing rounds accounted for just 31% of last year’s VC deals, down from 34% in 2021 and 58% in 2012. The number of VC deals in the U.S. and Europe fell 18%, to 761 last year from 930 in 2021.

The decline in VC financing helps explain why many smaller biopharmas are operating with cash “runways” of less than 12 months. “Depending on the robustness of their data, their therapeutic area, and their management, there will be a natural attrition. Some of these companies will just have to wind down,” Baral added.

M&A headwinds

Baral also acknowledged some headwinds that are likely to dampen the pace of M&A activity. In addition to rising interest rates and inflation increasing the cost of capital, valuations remain high for the most sought-after drugs, platforms, and other assets—a result of growing and continuing innovation.

Another headwind is growing regulatory scrutiny of the largest deals. Illumina’s $8 billion purchase of cancer blood test developer Grail has faced more than two years of challenges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and especially the European Commission—while Congress acted last year to begin curbing the price of prescription drugs and insulin through the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Those headwinds may prompt many companies to place greater strategic priority on collaborations and partnerships instead of M&A, Baral predicted, since they offer buyers early access to newer technologies before deciding whether to invest more capital through a merger or acquisition.

“Early-stage collaboration, early minority-stake investment becomes increasingly important, and it has been a cornerstone for early access to these technologies for the industry for a long, long time, and that is not changing any time soon,” Baral said. “On the other hand, even on the therapeutic area side, early-stage development is still expensive to do in-house for the large biopharma companies because of their cost structure.

“So, it is efficient cost-wise and speed-wise to buy these assets when they reach a certain point, which is probably at Phase II onward, and then you can pull the trigger on acquisitions if needed,” he added.

The post EY Eyes Comeback for Biopharma M&A appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

The International Monetary Fund published its latest World Economic Outlook on Monday,…

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IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

The International Monetary Fund published its latest World Economic Outlook on Monday, painting a slightly less gloomy picture than three and a half months ago, as inflation appears to have peaked in 2022, consumer spending remains robust and the energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been less severe than initially feared.

But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, that’s not to say the outlook is rosy, as the global economy still faces major headwinds.

However, the IMF predicts the slowdown to be less pronounced than previously anticipated.

Global growth is now expected to fall from 3.4 percent in 2022 to 2.9 percent this year, before rebounding to 3.1 percent in 2024.

The 2023 growth projection is up from an October estimate of 2.7 percent, as the IMF sees far fewer countries facing recession this year and does no longer anticipates a global downturn.

Infographic: IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast as Inflation Cools | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

One of the reasons behind the cautiously optimistic outlook is the latest downward trend in inflation, which suggests that inflation may have peaked in 2022.

The IMF predicts global inflation to cool to 6.6 percent in 2023 and 4.3 percent in 2024, which is still above pre-pandemic levels of about 3.5 percent, but significantly lower than the 8.8 percent observed in 2022.

“Economic growth proved surprisingly resilient in the third quarter of last year, with strong labor markets, robust household consumption and business investment, and better-than-expected adaptation to the energy crisis in Europe,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the IMF’s chief economist, wrote in a blog post released along with the report.

“Inflation, too, showed improvement, with overall measures now decreasing in most countries—even if core inflation, which excludes more volatile energy and food prices, has yet to peak in many countries.”

The risks to the latest outlook remain tilted to the downside, the IMF notes, as the war in Ukraine could further escalate, inflation continues to require tight monetary policies and China’s recovery from Covid-19 disruptions remains fragile. On the plus side, strong labor markets and solid wage growth could bolster consumer demand, while easing supply chain disruptions could help cool inflation and limit the need for more monetary tightening.

In conclusion, Gourinchas calls for multilateral cooperation to counter “the forces of geoeconomic fragmentation”.

“This time around, the global economic outlook hasn’t worsened,” he writes. “That’s good news, but not enough. The road back to a full recovery, with sustainable growth, stable prices, and progress for all, is only starting.”

However, just because the 'trend' has shifted doesn't mean it's mission accomplished...

That looks an awful lot like Central Bankers' nemesis remains - global stagflation curb stomps the dovish hopes.

Tyler Durden Tue, 01/31/2023 - 14:45

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Nike Escalates Design Battle Against Lululemon

The sportswear giant is accusing lululemon of patent infringement.

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The sportswear giant is accusing lululemon of patent infringement.

The Gucci loafers. The Burberry  (BBRYF) trench coat. When it comes to fashion, having a unique design is everything. This is why brands spend millions both creating and protecting their signature looks and the reason, as in the case of Adidas  (ADDDF) , extricating a brand's design from creators who behave badly is a costly and difficult process.

There is also the constant effort to release new styles without infringing on another group's style. This week, sportswear giant Nike  (NKE) - Get Free Report filed a lawsuit accusing lululemon  (LULU) - Get Free Report of infringing on its patents in the shoe line that the Vancouver-based activewear company launched last spring.

After years of selling exclusively clothing, accessories and the odd yoga mat, lululemon expanded into the world of footwear with a running shoe it dubbed Blissfeel last March. These were soon followed by training shoe and pool slide styles known as Chargefeel, Strongfeel -- all three of the designs (including a Chargefeel Low and a Chargefeel Mid design) have been mentioned in the lawsuit as causing "economic harm and irreparable injury" to Nike.

Nike's History Of Suing Lululemon Over Design

The specific issue lies in the technology used to build the shoes. According to the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, certain knitted elements, webbing and tubular structures are too similar to ones that had been used by Nike earlier.

Nike is keeping the amount it hopes to receive from lululemon under wraps but is insisting the company infringed on its patent when releasing a shoe line too similar to its own. Lululemon had previously talked about how its shoe line "far exceeded" its leaders' expectations both in terms of sales and ability to expand.

In a Q1 earnings call, chief executive Calvin McDonald said that the line "definitely had a lot more demand than we anticipated."

Nike has already tried to go after lululemon through the courts once before. In January 2022, it accused the company of infringing on six patents over its at-home Mirror Home Gym. As the world emerged out of the pandemic, lululemon has been billing it as a hybrid model between at-home and in-person classes. 

The lawsuit was also filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan but ultimately fizzled out.

When it comes to the shoe line lawsuit, Lululemon has been telling media outlets that "Nike's claims are unjustified" and the company "look[s] forward to proving [their] case in court."

Lululemon

Some More Examples Of Prominent Design Battles

In the fashion industry, design infringement accusations are common and rarely lead to high-profile rulings. While Nike has gone after the technology itself in both cases, lawsuits more often focus on the style or pattern on a given piece.

Shein, a China-based fast-fashion company that took on longtime leaders like H&M  (HNNMY)  and Fast Retailing  (FRCOF) 's Uniqlo with its bottom-of-the-barrel pricing, has faced numerous allegations from smaller and independent designers over the copying of designs -- in some cases not even from fashion designers but artists painting in local communities.

"They didn't remotely bother trying to change anything," U.K.-based artist Vanessa Bowman told the Guardian after seeing her painting of a local church appear on a sweater on Shein's website. "The things I paint are my garden and my little village: it’s my life. And they’ve just taken my world to China and whacked it on an acrylic jumper."

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