Adidas has lost a bid to ban rivals from using its three-stripe symbol in the European Union after a court ruled it was not “distinctive” enough.
In 2014, Adidas was granted a trademark on “three parallel equidistant stripes of identical width, applied on the product in any direction” on clothing, hats and shoes, However, in 2016, Shoe Branding Europe applied to the EU intellectual property office for the trademark to be annulled.
This week an EU court ruled the three stripes were an “ordinary figurative mark”, allowing Belgian company Shoe Branding Europe to continue manufacturing products with three stripes.
To widen the trademark, Adidas needed to show that three parallel stripes, regardless of direction on the product, had acquired a “distinctive character” throughout the EU.
That meant when a consumer saw the stripes on a product, they had to inherently know it was from Adidas, with the stripes distinguishing it from the products of another company.
Mark Caddle, a trademark lawyer at the European intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers, said Adidas had “failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that when seeing three stripes on clothing, footwear or headgear, consumers immediately associate such products with Adidas”.
It is not the first time Adidas has failed to protect the three-stripe motif.
In 2003, it lost a dispute with the Dutch company Fitnessworld, which was using a two-stripe design.
Adidas can still appeal to the European Court of Justice.