H&M Scores a Win Over Adidas in More Than 20-Year-Long Trademark Dispute

H&M has emerged victorious in a longstanding dispute with Adidas in the Netherlands.

On Tuesday, the Hague Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the Swedish fast-fashion retailer, which the athletic giant accused of infringing on its signature three-stripe trademark in a legal battle that dates back to 1997.

In February 2018, H&M submitted an appeal after the District Court of the Hague ruled that the retailer had infringed on Adidas’ logo through product designs that were part of H&M’s “Work Out” fitness line.

According to court documents, Adidas discovered the allegedly infringing collection in mid-1997. The apparel in question were athletic shirts and shorts in blue, yellow and brown that featured two parallel white stripes down the items’ sleeves and sides.

H&M, Adidas, lawsuit, Netherlands
CREDIT: The Hague Court of Appeal

The following year, Adidas sued H&M before the then-Breda District Court, requesting that it cease the use of the two stripes mark in future products. The case had subsequently been passed on to the Court of Appeal of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, followed by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands and the Court of Justice of the European Union. In December 2009, the Supreme Court — where the case was ultimately returned — ruled in favor of Adidas and referred the Hague Court of Appeal “for further assessment.”

Court documents show that Adidas, during its legal trouble with H&M, had also been involved in separate proceedings with Marca Mode, C&A Netherlands and Vendex KBB over the use of allegedly infringing designs. It ultimately reached settlements with those individual parties.

Adidas has had a protracted history of rebuking companies that use allegedly similar designs to its signature Three Stripes, which was registered 70 years ago on a football boot by founder Adolf Dassler. The symbol first appeared through the trefoil emblem on the brand’s shoes and clothing in the ’70s and was introduced as the primary motif on its products in 1997. Since then, Adidas has accused a number of big names in retail of trademark infringement, including J.Crew, Skechers and Forever 21 as well as rival sportswear label Puma.

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