13 August 2019TrademarksSaman Javed

Milkcrate Athletics sues Adidas over NBA t-shirt design

New York City-based fashion brand Milkcrate Athletics has filed a complaint against Adidas, claiming a t-shirt design sold by the German brand in partnership with the National Basketball Association ( NBA) infringes its trademark.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday, August 12 at the New York District Court for the Southern District of New York claims that the design of the allegedly infringing t-shirt, was deceptively copied from Milkcrate’s founder, Aaron LaCrate.

In its filing, Milkcrate said Lacrate had engaged in a series of emails with Adidas since 2011. It said LaCrate shared his thoughts, ideas, concepts and designs with the brand “under the protection of good faith and fair dealing”.

At the time, Adidas was the official supplier of uniforms and apparel for the NBA. One of the designs shared by LaCrate was the image of a milk crate alongside a backboard as a unique and original symbol for his brand, the complaint alleged.

“He did so in the good faith hope that he would collaborate with, or at least be treated professionally by, adidas, and not have his creations simply taken from him without compensation nor recognition,” the complaint said.

Shortly after, in 2016, Adidas began selling “Brooklyn Nets Milkcrate T-Shirts” as part of the apparel for the 2015-2016 NBA season.

Milkcrate said the resemblance between its own designs and that of Adidas’ t-shirts was “uncanny and undeniable”.

In addition to trademark infringement and dilution, Milkcrate also accused Adidas of false designation of origin, deceptive business practices and unfair competition.

Milkcrate owns a number of trademarks for its name, and also for its “milk crate” design. The trademarks cover clothing, namely t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, headwear, jackets and jeans.

It said the t-shirt, which uses “confusingly similar designations, symbols and names” to Milkcrate’s apparel, is “likely to deceive, confuse and mislead purchasers”, adding that consumers are likely to believe the t-shirt has been made in partnership between Milkcrate and Adidas.

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6 August 2019   Footwear brand Skechers has asked a US court to dismiss a trademark infringement suit over one of its shoe styles which Adidas had claimed infringes its three-stripe trademark.
20 August 2019   Milkcrate Athletics, a New York City-based fashion brand, has taken athletics company Under Armour to court over trademark infringement, just one week after accusing Adidas of copying its logo.
30 October 2019   New York City-based fashion brand Milkcrate Athletics has reached a settlement agreement with Adidas after it accused its German competitor of trademark infringement earlier this year.