WIPR survey: Adidas gone too far in ‘three-stripe’ protection


WIPR survey: Adidas gone too far in ‘three-stripe’ protection

Kokkai Ng / iStockphoto.com

Adidas has gone too far in its protection of the ‘three-stripe’ trademark, according to WIPR readers. 

Retailer Forever 21 had criticised the sportswear company in a declaratory judgment claim filed in early March. 

It argued that Adidas is known for “aggressively enforcing its perceived” trademark rights against others.

After WIPR asked readers for their views, three-quarters said that Adidas had gone too far.

Two readers stated that the company had bullied parties “who are not even close to infringing its marks into submission”.

Many readers noted that stripes on clothing are a generic feature and so they should be available to all designers. 

“Why should other traders be prevented from using stripes, especially in a number other than three? This would give Adidas an unjustified monopoly, which would not be beneficial to consumers,” said one reader. 

Another added that the mere use of stripes should be an element that all designers must be free to use, because the use does not necessarily “imply the will to imitate or infringe Adidas’ IP rights”.

However, one reader backed Adidas’ actions, asking which line had been crossed by Adidas in defending its IP rights.

“Sure, some actions may appear heavy-handed, but when you understand that IP counterfeiting/pirating will reach $4.2 trillion by 2022, the picture should be very clear. It’s not a victimless crime,” they said. 

“Adidas is simply protecting its rights,” said the respondent, adding that the trademark registrations Adidas relied on in the case clearly cover the three stripes that were shown on the Forever 21 items.

They claimed that there is no practical reason why three stripes, rather than one, would be featured on clothing other than for “decorative or source identification purposes”, and that Adidas is not claiming that “four stripes, two stripes or one stripe is confusingly similar here”.

According to two readers, Adidas has an “inherently weak mark” and the company would be “better advised to choose its battles carefully”.

For this week’s question, we ask: A lawyer at the CITMA spring conference in London last week said that Brexit will be a big opportunity for the UK.  Do you agree?

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Forever 21, Adidas, trademark, trademark infringement, three-stripe, clothing, apparel, WIPR survey