Atomic and Salomon have launched a new binding system in all the cross-country ski markets, called Prolink, that is compatible with the Rottefella NNN binding system. The two subsidiaries of Amer Sports continue to offer Salomon's own SNS system as an alternative.

Rottefella reacted on Jan. 5 by sending a written notice to Amer Sports, threatening legal action. The Norwegian binding specialist believes that the product is illegally copying its binding as well as breaking Norwegian marketing law. Both the functionalities of the product and the way in which it is presented to the market are the basis for Rottefella's standpoint.

Observers noted that the new Prolink system has an almost identical lug pattern to that of a Rottefella Xcelerator sole. Amer officials say that there are clear differences between the two products, and that there are no risks of confusion for the consumer, who will thus have more choices. They argue that the group is respecting all laws and regulations, and that the patent for Rottefella's NNN binding expired in 2015.

Amer officials point out that the Prolink binding has the same, distinctive construction as the SNS binding to secure the boot, and the same external shape. They say the Prolink binding is different from the NNN systemvin terms of the boot securing mechanism, the bumper and the fact that it doesn't use because it uses the NIS interface to attach the boot to the ski. The design of the sole developed by Amer for the Prolink boot is distinctive, too, matching the comfort and fit of SNS products.

On the other hand, both the Prolink and NNN systems have a double guiding ridge and a double groove, based on a technology this is now in the public domain, ensuring compatibility.

In a press release, Rottefella says that Amer is infringing on its intellectual property rights, and that the product launch is in violation of marketing legislation. In an interview published by Norway's Sportsbransjen, an attorney for Rottefella, Halvor Manshaus, refers to the Norwegian Marketing Control Act regulations against product imitations.

Rottefella says it believes that consumers will be faced with misleading claims from Amer, and that the launch entails a risk of confusion with Rottefella products, possibly leading to “problems with the functionality and a reduced user experience,” according to Manshaus, who is a partner in the law firm Schiødt.

In the interview, the lawyer claimed that Amer has launched the product virtually in secret and that when Prolink became known, it was already being targeted directly at consumers. Therefore, he says that Rottefella must take action when an organization like Amer is copying its binding system with deceptive advertising.

Amer Sports Norway was given a deadline to provide a reply by last Friday afternoon. The general manager of Amer Sports Norway, Simen Mørdre, was quoted as confirming that his company received notification from Rottefella, but said that it would take time to read, review and understand what it is that Rottefella means before responding. 

Rottefella has not yet gone to court with a formal lawsuit. An official of the Norwegian company said the notice to Amer was the first step toward a “potential” trial.