Three Stripes and You’re Out? Thom Browne Sues Adidas Abroad Over Three-stripe Trademark
In 2021, Adidas took aim at New York fashion brand, Thom Browne, filing suit in a New York court, claiming that Thom Browne’s “Four Bar Design” constitutes trademark infringement and dilution of Adidas’s three-stripe mark, and seeking injunctive relief and damages. The suit posits that Thom Browne’s expansion beyond its typical formalwear into sportswear and athleisure, including a 2018 partnership with the formerly Adidas-sponsored F.C. Barcelona soccer team, enhances a likelihood of confusion between the brands’ striped marks. Specifically, Adidas alleges that Thom Browne is “selling athletic-style apparel and footwear featuring two, three, or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to Adidas’s three-stripe mark.” The suit also points to a history between the parties, including a mediation process beginning in November 2020, trademark oppositions before the EU Intellectual Property Office in 2017 and 2018, and according to Thom Browne, Adidas’s consent to the brand’s Four Bar Design for more than a decade.
Thom Browne Sues Abroad
While the New York suit is still in its pre-trial pleading stage, defendant Thom Browne has gone on the offensive, bringing suit against Adidas in a London court. This suit alleges, among other things, that more than 20 Adidas trademarks for its three-stripe design should be invalidated due to a lack of distinctiveness and/or non-use for at least five years. Thom Browne alternatively asserts that the scope of protection for the Adidas trademarks is unclear, including with respect to the spacing between the stripes, their positions on articles of clothing and footwear, and whether the trademarks cover color combinations beyond black stripes on a white background. As of November 2021, the case is ongoing.
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