Nike has thousands of patents for sneakers and apparel. This week its intellectual property entered a new category: denim.

The sportswear giant now holds a patent for "architecturally reinforced denim."

While many patents never result in a product on store shelves, it could be an important development as Nike responds to a consumer shift away from sportswear to blue jeans and casual shoes.

But not surprising for a company that prides itself on innovation, it's no ordinary denim. The fabric has moisture management, "stretch materials" and "performance zones."

And like any Nike product, it seems designed for athletes, not office workers.

The patent describes the denim as useful for extreme athletes, such as BMX riders and skateboarders who "require specialized gear that must be comfortable and protective," but prefer "clothing and other gear that are fashionable and attractive."

Nike already sells one style of denim on its website, but it's unclear if the jeans are made from the same material described in the patent.

Nike has been on a patent tear since it named Mark Parker CEO in 2006. Its patent activity now rivals some technology heavyweights.

On the company's most recent conference call, Parker said the company will work even harder on innovation as it seeks to make up for lost momentum.

"We're doubling our cadence and scale of innovation through performance and sports style," Parker said.

The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.