Mar 8, 2017

Adidas accused of trade mark bullying

In February of this year, the well-known German sportswear retailer Adidas threatened clothing retailer Forever 21 with legal action, over the use of stripes on six items of its clothing range.

Adidas began using its three-stripe trade mark on shoes in the 1950s and then later on clothing in the 1960's.  Adidas has obtained trade mark registrations of the logo worldwide including several U.S. trademark registrations.

Adidas is extremely aggressive in enforcing its trade mark rights and has filed numerous infringement claims.  In the past it has sued retailers including Polo Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Steven Madden and Nordstrom Inc over the use of stripes on shoes and clothing. It has already sued Forever 21 in 2015 over its use of stripes on clothing.  In the 2015 lawsuit it accused Forever 21 of knowingly counterfeiting, infringing on federal trademark laws, and creating unfair competition by participating in unfair and deceptive trade practices. The parties settled the dispute and Adidas filed to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.

This time Forever 21 has fought back and have accused Adidas of taking its trade mark protection too far.  A spokesman at Forever 21 has said that "Adidas should not be allowed to claim a monopoly on all striped clothing. Forever 21 is not infringing any Adidas trademark and has not breached any agreements with Adidas. This matter is ripe for a declaratory judgment."

On 3 March, Forever 21 filed a declaratory judgement claim for non-infringement at the US District Court.   Forever 21 said that they should be entitled to sell clothing using ornamental decorative stripes and that Adidas was engaging in bullying behavior.

Adidas have not commented on the case other than to say that they will continue to vigorously protect their brand.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

Posted by: in: News, Trade Marks

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