End of Adidas’ unlimited monopoly on the “three stripes” brand marcantonio-demo 10 January 2023

End of Adidas’ unlimited monopoly on the “three stripes” brand

Not all stripes are Adidas. The German sportswear giant learned this – again – at his own expense. As many know, Adidas has a long known history of lawsuits brought against any company that used a design that could recall its “Three Stripes” brandMany – and some very famous – are the companies that have had to defend themselves from the lawsuits of Adidas.

Recently, Adidas has lost yet another legal battle to prevent the use of brands that could remember its “three stripes”. Around mid-2021, Adidas sued American designer Thom Browne (famous for his suits with jacket and shorts) complaining that the four stripes used by the latter on most of its garments imitated its iconic “Three Stripes” brand, resulting in consumer confusion.

On the contrary, Thom Browne argued that the danger of confusion was to be excluded not only because the two companies operate in completely different markets (the American brand is part of the luxury segment, while Adidas in sportswear)address different customers and offer their products at very different prices, but above all because, in any case, a brand having just three strips can not extend its protection on all possible configurations (and quantities) of the strips. Vieppiù, the sign consisting of stripes was in use since the late 40’s on the c.d. jackets varsity (or college).

In the end, with a verdict of 12 January 2023, the Court of New York ruled in favor of Thom Browne, excluding the possibility that the “three stripes” of Adidas, as far as known, could inhibit the use of a four-stripe logo for products – among other things – that do not coincide with those of Adidas.

From all the most recent events of the Adidas brand (the last of which is the one summarized above) you can draw the definitive (?) conclusion so, while admitting that now – after more than 50 years – the “Three Stripes” have certainly acquired a strong distinctive power, a hypothetical infringement of the trademark could only take place within the limits of a “three-stripe” design that reproduces the Adidas logo in a slavish way, as in the figure of three strips there is nothing original and characterizing.