Trademark Law

Earn Your Stripes: Adidas Court Battle

February 10, 2023

Adidas, the company known far and wide for putting three stripes on almost everything they make. Being such a popular brand, Adidas took some precaution a while back and obtained a Federal Trademark on their three stripe design.

What is a Trademark? A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or phrase that is used in commerce with goods and services to indicate the source of the goods and services and to distinguish them from those of others. Basically, the requirements of someone getting a trademark is that:

  1. the person who wants the Trademark needs to be using the mark in commerce, or be close to being ready to use it,
  2. the mark must be a non-functional identifier of the goods or services, and
  3. the mark must be distinctive, which means it has to do more than just merely describe the goods or services to which it is associated.

The thing about Trademarks is that if someone infringes on it, a lawsuit can be filed to stop the infringer from using the mark, and obtain damages for losses related to the infringers use of the mark. If the alleged infringer disagrees, the facts of each situation are then considered in court to determine whether infringement has occurred.

So with Adidas, they obtained a Trademark because they want any product in their market with three stripes (or something similar) on it to come from them and only them. In addition, they don’t want anyone else making products in the same market with similar stripes as that might trick someone into thinking a product was made by Adidas when it was not, and potentially steal business from Adidas.

But, what about four stripes? Well, it has been determined that the number of stripes does matter. One fashion designer has just successfully defended himself against Adidas in a Trademark infringement case revolving around the stripes.

Fashion designer Thom Browne was accused of Trademark infringement when Adidas claimed his luxury fashion brand “Four Bar Signature” used four stripes in a way Adidas claims was too similar to its logo design and without its permission. It was around 2009 when the “Four-Bar Signature” look was first released. Adidas claimed it only became aware of the possible trademark infringement in 2018, and initiated its lawsuit in 2021. Thom Browne disagreed and the parties decided a trial was the only way to settle the matter. The whole trial lasted about nine days. It only took the jury three hours to reach a verdict.

Adidas claimed almost $8 million in damages. About $870,000.00 of that came from tentative licensing fees. The companies had agreed this was the theoretical amount that would have been paid had Adidas licensed their Trademark to Thom Browne’s company. Next, about $7,000,000.00 was claimed by Adidas in damages from profits that Thom Browne’s company made in profits from selling the striped clothing and footwear.

Some of the biggest factors in the decision were that Adidas failed to show that Thom’s stripe design caused them any actual harm because their company’s have different customer bases. The jury believed there wouldn’t be any confusion among customers between any Thom Browne products and Adidas products, due to the significant difference in pricing, and target markets for each company.

Adidas hasn’t given up yet though, and says they will take any necessary action to continue defending their Trademark. Odds are they will likely appeal this.

Some think Adidas has a valid claim of infringement here, but others would argue that a company can’t just claim a monopoly on using stripes in the apparel and shoe industry.  If this court ruling holds up, they likely won’t. Does this mean clothing makers need to look out? Well, Trademark infringement occurs every day, and everyone should be mindful in order to avoid ending up in court for infringement. Win or lose, many individuals can’t afford to go up against some of these big companies. Perhaps you have a great logo idea for your business, and you want to make sure no one else is using it so that you can obtain your own protections.  Our Intellectual Property team at SW&L Attorneys is here to help you with your idea and discuss the requirements and process involved in a Trademark application. To get in touch with us, call 701-297-2890, or email us at:

This article is for informational purposes only and is subject to our disclaimer.