German sportswear brand Adidas lost a legal battle to trademark its “three-stripes” logo in a European Union court on Wednesday. The court said Adidas failed to prove that the motif had acquired a “distinctive character” throughout the 28-country bloc that would qualify for legal protection.
The three parallel stripes seen on various Adidas’ products like running shoes, sports bags and clothing are an “ordinary figurative mark”, the General Court of the European Union ruled on Wednesday, upholding a 2016 ruling to annul a previous acceptance of the trademark that Adidas registered in 2014.
Adidas said its trademark consisted of “three parallel equidistant stripes of equal width applied to the product in whichever direction” but the court said that “the mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements, but an ordinary figurative mark.”
Adidas was required to prove that the “three stripe” mark had acquired a “distinctive character” throughout the European Union so that consumers could differentiate an Adidas product from other competition.
The bloc’s highest court said in a statement that Adidas could appeal against the Wednesday’s decision to the European Court of Justice.
In a statement, Adidas said the court’s ruling only affected a “particular execution” of the symbol and did not impact other protected uses of the trademark in Europe.
Adidas, which has provided evidence related to the mark’s use in five EU countries, said, “Whilst we are disappointed with the decision, we are further evaluating it and are welcoming the useful guidance that the court will give us for protecting our 3-stripe mark applied to our products in whichever direction in the future.”
“It’s a setback for Adidas, but it shouldn’t be the end of their three stripes trademark,” Geert Glas, an intellectual property lawyer at Allen and Overy in Brussels, said after the court order.
Sporting goods brands have seen a rise in trademark disputes recently. Last year, Nike filed a lawsuit accusing Puma of using patented athletic shoe technology without authorisation.
In 2017, Adidas lost another legal battle where it tried to block Skechers from selling athletic sneakers that it said copied its “Springblade” concept.
(With inputs from Reuters)