Jan 6, 2023

Three stripes and you're out, but what about four?

German multinational corporation Adidas have issued proceedings against American fashion designer Thom Browne for alleged trade mark infringement.

The claim was filed back in June 2021 on the grounds Thom Browne’s parallel four-striped designs are “confusingly similar” to and “imitates” Adidas’ own three-striped mark. The parties appeared in court in Manhattan on 03 January 2023 after attempts to settle the matter amicably, out of court failed. Thom Browne appeared at the hearing sporting a pair of shorts paired with black and white socks bearing the four-striped design.

The case ultimately depends on whether one brand, namely Adidas, can own rights in varsity stripes as a whole. Adidas first used the three-stripe mark back in 1949 on a pair of running shoes. Though varsity jackets pre-date that first appearance. Adidas claim to have exclusive use of the three-stripe mark on footwear since 1952 and clothing since 1967. The commonality of such stripes will be a factor in determining the matter.

Thom Browne has argued Adidas is not a direct competitor as Thom Browne is a luxury designer and Adidas a sportswear company. Representatives for Thom Browne claim that means Thom Browne “does not in any way, shape or form compete with Adidas”.

The history between the parties dates back to 2005 when Thom Browne adopted his “three-bar signature” design which looked strikingly similar to Adidas’ own design. Following discussions with the CEO of Adidas, Thom Browne ceased using that design and in 2006 adopted the now disputed four-stripe design.

It is to be seen if Adidas succeed in owning rights to varsity stripes or if Thom Browne will prevail.

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

in: Case Law, Companies, Consumer Law, EU/International, Legal News, Trade Marks

Share this page