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Can a Ubiquitous Brand With Stripes Claim Trademark Infringement on All Striped Logos? Adidas v. Thom Browne Says No

February 7, 2023

This past month, Adidas lost its highly publicized trademark infringement lawsuit against luxury fashion brand, Thom Browne. The lawsuit stemmed from Thom Browne’s use of a “four stripe” logo design eerily similar to the “three strip” logo made famous and used by Adidas since the 1950’s.

The case was commenced in 2021 by Adidas in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. In its complaint, Adidas claimed that Thom Browne’s design was too similar to Adidas’ well-known “three stripe” mark and is likely to confuse consumers, given that Thom Browne’s design was being used on athleisurewear such as shoes, shirts and pants. However, as Thom Browne noted during closing arguments: “Adidas does not own stripes.”

Trademark laws are used to protect not only brands, but also to prevent confusion for consumers in the marketplace. When a party receives trademark protection, it has the exclusive right to use a logo or brand, and as a result, consumers can more easily identify the source and associated quality of the branded products.

Here, Adidas’ trademark is limited to three stripes that it uses identically under almost every circumstance. In fact, Adidas places highly specific limitations on how the mark can be used by its designers, as it only allows the logo to be tilted up to 20 degrees or vertically. Due to this rigid use of the mark, as well as the price differential between Adidas and Thom Browne products (which can cost upward of $3,000 per garment), the jury determined that the public could not possibly mistake Thom Browne products with Adidas.

As a result of the decision, Thom Browne is now permitted to continue to sell its products containing the “four stripe” mark and the strength of Adidas’ “three stripe” mark as a source indicator has likely been diminished. The decision is also likely to have implications for other fashion and sportswear brands that use or would like to use design elements such as sequential stripes on their clothing or logos.

The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the authors and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is it intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. 

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