Adidas has long been recognized for its signature three-stripe logo, so it’s no surprise the German sportswear giant has had a protracted history of rebuking companies that use allegedly similar designs.
Registered 70 years ago on a football boot by founder Adolf Dassler, the symbol appeared through the trefoil emblem on Adidas shoes and clothing in the ’70s and was introduced as the primary motif on the brand’s products in 1997. Since then, it has accused a number of big names in retail of trademark infringement. Here are six times that Adidas contested the use of such stripes in court in the last five years alone.
In a notice of opposition submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early August, Adidas sought to halt J.Crew from using its recently filed trademark for a striped symbol on apparel that includes tops, bottoms and sleepwear as well as accessories that span handbags to suitcases. The specialty retailer’s design featured five parallel bands of color in burgundy, ivory and navy blue hues.
According to a Law360 report, the athletic behemoth argued that the three-stripes mark has “come to signify the quality and reputation of Adidas,” adding that J.Crew’s use of the symbol would “dilute the distinctiveness” and “[lessen] the capacity … to identify and distinguish the goods and services” of the sportswear brand. Four days after the filing, Adidas asked the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board to suspend proceedings, with the latter agreeing to hold off on the matter for 60 days as the two companies attempt to reach an agreement.
Adidas and Skechers have engaged in back-and-forth intellectual property disputes for more than two decades. The latest development happened early this month when the latter requested to dismiss a preemptive lawsuit it had filed in February, alleging that the sports brand had fraudulently accused it of patent infringement. The case remains in litigation.
Another case came to a close in May 2018 following three years of litigation. In the lawsuit, Adidas argued that Skechers’ Onix sneakers were virtually identical to its famed Stan Smith style and thus liable to cause customer confusion. (The athletic brand also brought to court its three-stripe design and Supernova mark.) Ultimately, the two parties settled out of court, with their claims and counterclaims dismissed and both brands paying their own attorneys’ fees and expenses. (The terms of the settlement are confidential.)
In March 2017, Adidas hit Forever 21 with a trademark infringement lawsuit. The complaint, which was originally filed under seal, was made public that July. In the filing, Adidas accused the fast-fashion retailer of using a three-stripe design on clothing, shoes and sportswear that it believed appeared “confusingly similar” to its own. According to the German brand, the chain not only sold its own merchandise with the allegedly infringing marks, but also “repurposed” Adidas items on its website, including athletic shorts and track pants that it claimed were counterfeit products.
“Neither the infringing apparel and footwear nor the counterfeit apparel is manufactured by Adidas, nor [are] either of them connected or affiliated with, or authorized by, Adidas in any way,” the complaint read. Adidas agreed to an out-of-court settlement with one of Forever 21’s suppliers that December, with terms of the deal remaining undisclosed.
Also in March 2017, Juicy Couture was hit with a lawsuit alleging that it “intentionally adopted and used counterfeit and/or confusingly similar imitations of the three-stripe mark.” According to Adidas, Juicy Couture had agreed in 2009 — following another legal battle — to no longer use parallel stripes in its clothing. Nevertheless, claimed Adidas, Juicy Couture had later started selling a jacket and pair of pants featuring the design.
The two parties reached a settlement to end the lawsuit and courts dismissed the case in October 2017.
Puma has also been hit with lawsuits by Adidas. One such case: A February 2017 infringement complaint over a soccer cleat that the latter stated bears “a confusingly similar imitation of Adidas’ three-stripe mark.” (The Puma EvoPower Vigor Camo was pictured in the filing.) Adidas went on to say that the allegedly infringing shoe is likely to “deceive the public regarding the source, sponsorship, and/or affiliation of that footwear.” The suit also claimed that sales of the Puma cleat identified in the suit is “unlawful and is causing irreparable harm to Adidas’ brand.”
It came on the heels of a separate suit the previous year in which Adidas sought an injunction to halt the sale of its German rival’s popular NRGY shoes. Both activewear companies at the time claimed they had developed the synthetic first, although neither had it patented. The court ended up rejecting Adidas’ attempt in April 2016.
Adidas filed a complaint in April 2015 against Marc Jacobs for allegedly selling sweaters that came with four stripes down the arms, calling the use of the design a “blatant disregard of Adidas’ rights.” Furthering its case, the sportswear brand argued that its collaborative practices including partnerships with designers Yohji Yamamoto and Raf Simons put it in competition with Marc Jacobs and thus serves a similar consumer base.
“This is particularly damaging with respect to those people who perceive a defect or lack of quality in Marc Jacobs’s products,” the suit read. The two companies settled in 2016, with terms remaining confidential.
Correction: The article originally stated that Adidas had agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Forever 21 that December. Instead, it agreed to an out-of-court settlement with one of the retailer’s suppliers.
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