July 8, 2019
Adidas suffered a loss at the General Court of the European Union when it upheld a decision of the EU intellectual property authorities that limited the protection attributed to Adidas's three stripes trademark.
The Court determined that Adidas’s trademark does not protect the use of three parallel stripes in any direction. The Court stated that there was no “distinctive character” in such general branding, and it is an ordinary “figurative mark” which does not warrant trademark protection. The protection is thus limited to when the three stripes are slanted in a particular way, as is commonly seen on Adidas apparel.
The German sportswear giant was originally granted the more broad protection it desired in 2014. However, the trademark was challenged by a Belgium-based company, Shoe Branding Europe, and the trademark was subsequently annulled by the EU Intellectual Property Office. The recent upholding of the annulment may not put an end to the issue as the decision can still be appealed to the European Court of Justice.
A major issue identified by the Court was that Adidas had only provided evidence that the three stripes have acquired a “distinctive character” in five of the twenty-eight European Union member states.
Adidas released a statement regarding the ruling, saying it is disappointed with the result but that it is “limited to this particular execution of the three-stripe mark and does not impact on the broad scope of protection that Adidas has on its well-known three-stripe mark in various forms in Europe”.
Authors: Jaclyn Tilak and Sasha Seeber