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In the filing, Adidas accused Browne of selling “athletic-style apparel and footwear featuring two, three or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to Adidas's three-stripe mark”.
An ‘extremely valuable’ mark
It further argued that the three-stripe logo had become synonymous with the Adidas brand since it first started using it on footwear in 1952 and then on sportswear in 1967.
“Adidas owns numerous federal trademark registrations for its famous three-stripe Mark for apparel and footwear, many of which are incontestable, and Adidas has invested hundreds of millions of dollars building its brand in connection with the three-stripe mark,” said the complaint.
According to Adidas, the allegedly infringing sportswear imitates the mark in a manner that is likely to “deceive the public regarding its source, sponsorship, association, or affiliation” and Thom Browne’s actions were “irreparably harming Adidas’s brand and its extremely valuable three-stripe mark”.
To support its argument, the company stated that it had used the three-stripe mark in connection with its frequent sponsorship and collaborations with musical artists, including Beyoncé Knowles, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Selena Gomez, and Snoop Dogg. Additionally, it had used the mark in connection with its frequent sponsorship of athletic tournaments and organisations, as well as professional athletes and sports teams.
Encroachment into ‘core market’
Adidas complained that Thom Browne’s encroachment into Adidas’s core market category had been exacerbated by the designer’s partnership with European football club Barcelona. It was particularly aggrieved that Thom Browne had promoted its goods using images associated with soccer and even several soccer players that are also sponsored by Adidas, most notably Lionel Messi.
Adidas further noted that the dispute with Brown dated back to 2018 when Adidas opposed a trademark application that Thom Browne filed in the European Union for a two-stripe design and it had subsequently entered into mediation. This process, however, failed to resolve the disagreements between the two parties.
Adidas is notoriously protective of its iconic stripe logo and other trademarks and has previously sued others for alleged infringement, including J.Crew, Forever 21, Skechers, Juicy Couture, Tesla, Marc Jacobs, Sears, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren and Target.
A statement released to magazine WWD, on behalf of Browne countered that the suit lacked credibility because the designer had used the disputed logo for a number of years without prompting any action from Adidas.
“We believe we are right and we are confident in the outcome of the case, as we have acted honourably for all this time," "[Adidas] consented for 12 years and now they are changing their mind. The court won't allow that. And consumers won't as well. It is an attempt to use the law illegally,” a spokesperson for Thom Browne said.
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