By: Sharon Urias, Esq.
Last week Adidas formally challenged world renowned soccer club FC Barcelona’s attempt at registering its three vertical red stripe design (three vertical red stripes with a blue background) that is part of the team’s crest. Adidas asserted that FC Barcelona’s design is confusingly similar in appearance and commercial impression to its well-known, often-enforced “three-stripe trademark.”
Adidas is a frequent participant in trademark enforcement legal disputes. This should be no surprise—after all, Adidas is the second-largest footwear brand in the world and protecting its defining three-stripe mark is vitally important. Adidas has asserted in previous actions that its stripes have reached iconic status in the eyes of the public, and has previously pointed to numerous articles that refer to the symbolic, trademarked stripes as legendary, ubiquitous and signature. According to Adidas, products displaying the three-stripe trademark have generated billions of dollars worldwide for the company.
In recent years, the sportswear giant sued clothing retailer Marc Jacobs for using a four-stripe design on its sweaters, arguing that the design misleads consumers to believe they are looking at Adidas apparel. Now on the surface, one may question whether Marc Jacobs and Adidas vie for the same customer base, but Adidas has indeed ventured into higher-end lines of clothing with its Y-3 line, with both Marc Jacobs and Adidas/Y-3 product being sold at Saks. Adidas also filed a lawsuit against Forever 21, claiming the clothing company was making counterfeit products and violating federal trademark laws by incorporating the three-stripe mark onto the sleeves of children’s sweatshirts, ultimately tarnishing the reputation of Adidas’ brand. Adidas also has gone after Skechers and Lands’ End, not only for designing and producing shoes with similar appearances to Adidas products, but also for incorporating similar stripe patterns onto the shoes in question.
Adidas has made it clear that it will not tolerate other entities copying its products and infringing on its valuable intellectual property rights. It should be noted that Adidas is just one of many successful companies with a defining trademark that others want to emulate, if not blatantly copy. If you have a defining mark, it is imperative that you keep a close eye on competing businesses to ensure that your trademark is not being infringed upon.