2010 Tour de France, stage 19, Ryder Hesjedal in the Pearl Izumi bat suit
2010 Tour de France, stage 19: Ryder Hesjedal in the Pearl Izumi bat suit

BOULDER, Colo. (VN) _ Clothing maker Pearl Izumi is suing Slipstream Sports, the manager the Garmin-Transitions team, over the “winged” skin suits some riders on the team sported this season.

In the suit filed in Boulder District Court in Colorado, Pearl Izumi claims that the team has refused to return a dozen of the prototype suits, despite repeated requests, according to an article in the Daily Camera, Boulder’s daily newspaper. Castelli is the team’s clothing sponsor for 2011, and Pearl Izumi apparently believes the team is sharing technical information about the patent pending suits with its new sponsor.

Pearl Izumi officials were not immediately available to comment on the story, but Slipstream issued a statement suggesting that the team and its staff were also instrumental in the design.

“Slipstream Sports is and always has been committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation and technology,” a statement noted. “We do this with the goal of giving our athletes the best possible equipment and the biggest technological advantages within the ethical guidelines we have set for ourselves. With this in mind, Slipstream Sports developed and tested the wing suit technology.

“Slipstream Sports put hundreds of hours of testing into this technology independent of Pearl Izumi. While we regret that Pearl has pursued this action, the fact is that Slipstream spent years developing this technology. However, we remain grateful for their sponsorship and will continue to represent them through the end of our agreement.”

According to the suit, Pearl Izumi believes the suits are in the hands of Robby Ketchell, a consultant who works as the team’s sport science director. Slipstream insists the 27-year-old Ketchell was the source of the design. Ketchell, currently in New York, declined to comment to VeloNews or say whether he has the skinsuits.

The lawsuit cites a non-disclosure agreement between the clothing manufacturer and the cycling team that specifies any confidential information provided by either party must be kept confidential.

Team manager Jonathan Vaughters said that the team has no plans to share the information with anyone, including its new clothing sponsor.

“It’s just that those suits belong to us,” Vaughters told VeloNews. “Robby was the one who designed the suits. Pearl produced them, but as far as the intellectual property — the real idea behind them — that’s all Robby.”

The lawsuit asks the court to force the team to return the suits, give up any information that may be related to the suits’ design and award Pearl Izumi damages.

VeloNews.com Senior Editor Charles Pelkey contributed to this report