By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
A trademark as a ‘badge of origin’ is a valuable piece of intangible or intellectual property, not least when it involves the world-famous ADIDAS sportswear German multinational company three-stripe logo.
Not surprisingly, ADIDAS sued the American fashion designer Thom Browne for his use of four stripes in his designs, claiming that they were too close to its three-stripe trademark. In other words, they were confusingly similar and, as such, constituted a trademark infringement.
However, a jury in the New York Southern District Court rejected this claim.
The ADIDAS three stripes have been used on its goods, ranging from trainers to tracksuits, since 1952, whereas Browne’s four stripes have been used since 2007 on the edge of socks and on the arm bands of blazers.
Browne’s lawyers successfully argued that stripes were a design used by many brands and that ADIDAS does not own stripes, apart from the fact that consumers would not be confused, as Browne’s goods were high-end fashion products and aimed at a different market. For example, a Thom Browne cardigan with four stripes retails for £1,300, whereas an ADIDAS track top retails for £36!
ADIDAS had claimed damages of £711,244 representing lost licensing fees and some £7 million in lost profit resulting from the use by Browne of the stripes.
ADIDAS may appeal the Court’s decision.
So, watch this space!