Rollerblade, Inc. began in 1980 as a company offering an in-line skate as a off-season training tool for ice hockey players. Minnesota hockey players Scott Olson and his brother had discovered a pair of in-line skates and modified them for their own use, improving comfort and adding a rear brake. The product spent a few years as a niche market product in the Minnesota area for hockey players, nordic skiers, and alpine skiers.
After the company was sold to Minneapolis businessman Bob Naegele, Jr. in 1984, the company had the fiscal resources to really solidify the product. Many nagging design flaws were solved, and the company introduced the Lightning TRS, the first truly successful skate.
The new owners positioned the skates as a recreational toll for everyone, and reached out to a broad market. Specialty stores in Miami Beach, Florida, and Venice Beach, California gave the product exposure to people (and media) who would embrace the product and take it national, and then global.
Rollerblade has since eliminated its specialty shops, selling through the sporting good chains. They use a number of marketing programs and promotions, plus a reputation for quality and innovation, to maintain their leadership position in the market. New ideas, from small ideas like using buckles instead of laces, to big ones like their 'Active Brake Technology' which simplified braking, kept Rollerblade at the top throughout the 1990s.
Recent innovations include a tool-less, push button adjustable children’s skate, the Microblade® XT.
After many years as a division of Benetton Sportsystem USA, Inc., Tecnica Group S.p.A.'s purchase of Rollerblade was finalized in July 2003. Technica is expected to bring improved manufacturing and research strengths to Rollerblade.
In-line skates themselves are often called "rollerblades", but this is not correct. Rollerblade is a registered trademark of Rollerblade, Inc. Like Kleenex, Styrofoam, and Frisbee, ubiquity in the market has devalued the brand name.
Rollerblade would prefer that you use the generic term 'in-line skate', or simply skate.
Thanks to http://www.rollerblade.com/about_us/our_story.html