Why Brooks Sports Is Taking Brooks Brothers to Court

Brooks Sports Inc. is suing Brooks Brothers Group Inc. over alleged trademark infringement.

In court documents filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington, sports apparel and footwear company Brooks Sports asked a judge to bar heritage clothier Brooks Brothers Group from using the “Brooks” moniker alone (without “Brothers”). Brooks Sports claimed that the name “Brooks” by itself is associated with its brand and sought to stop Brooks Brothers Group from using it on products to “prevent public confusion and dilution” of the name. Brooks Sports also sought damages for Brooks Brothers’ alleged unfair competition and breach of contract.

“For more than 100 years, we’ve built a brand that consumers worldwide recognize and trust,” Brooks Sports CEO Jim Weber said in a statement. “We will aggressively protect our intellectual property and defend the investment that’s created our valuable brand.”

While Brooks Sports develops athletic-inspired performance shoes and clothing, Brooks Brothers designs ready-to-wear fashion. A trademark coexistence agreement, which allows two trademark owners to use similar marks with certain limitations, exists between the two companies, dating back to 1980.

On Dec. 30, Brooks Brothers applied for new trademarks to use the name “Brooks” alone on eight categories of products, including accessories such as duffel bags and sport bags, as well as retail store services that would feature apparel, sports goods and athletic accessories. Brooks Sports contested the move, and the two parties, according to the suit, unsuccessfully attempted to resolve their dispute out of court.

Using the “Brooks” name, Brooks Sports wrote in the lawsuit filed yesterday, would “confuse the public, dilute the Brooks [Sports] marks, ride on Brooks [Sports]’ coattails for establishing its reputation in the area of activewear and athletic footwear and apparel, violate the parties’ coexistence agreement and damage [Brooks Sports].”

Brooks Sports is seeking injunctive and monetary relief.

In a statement to FN, Brooks Brothers wrote, “Brooks Brothers is disappointed to learn of Brooks Sports’ filing of the lawsuit. … Brooks Sports has recently decided to drop its path logo and begin using ‘Brooks’ on clothing in violation of the parties’ coexistence agreement. Brooks Brothers has objected to such use and is concerned that using ‘Brooks’ on clothing will cause confusion with Brooks Brothers’ famous brand.”

The statement concluded, “It is our intent to vigorously defend this lawsuit in order to continue to protect our brand as well as prevent confusion among consumers between our respective clothing lines, just as we have for the past 100 years.”

This story has been updated with a statement from Brooks Brothers.

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