Columbia Sportswear, along with OutDry Technologies, the Italian developer of breathable membranes that it acquired last year, has appealed to the anti-trust authorities of the European Commission (EC) to check whether the practices of W.L. Gore & Associates are in line with the European Union's competition laws.

The plaintiffs allege in their complaint that the company marketing Gore-Tex and related products has been abusing its dominant market position in waterproof and breathable membranes for shoes and gloves.

This move came after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a subpoena to Gore back in March, demanding documents proving that Gore did not engage in unfair methods of competition through contracts and exclusionary practices, on the back of its strong market position.

Matteo Morlacchi, the managing director of OutDry, says that he would like to find out why there are non-exclusive agreements between Gore and its customers for the use of Gore-Tex (and related products) in apparel, but not in footwear and gloves. In the apparel sector, Gore's customers are often allowed to use cheaper membranes in the lower segment of their ranges.

Morlacchi is also wondering why it is common practice that many brands market Gore-Tex membranes alongside their own waterproof solutions for garments, but not for other categories. OutDry only markets waterproof solutions for gloves and shoes, but – as of now – not for garments.

W.L. Gore does not appear to be worried about Columbia's attack. Michael Haag, spokesman for Gore's Germany-based European operations, stresses that his company has not received any letter or other information from any European institution so far. Full coverage and analysis of the complaint will appear in the upcoming issue of The Outdoor Industry Compass.