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Adidas Loses Three Stripes Trademark Battle In European Court

Adidas has failed in an attempt to broaden trademark protection for its three-stripes symbol in the European Union. The German company will not be allowed to trademark three stripes horizontally / vertically next to each other, Europe's second-highest court has ruled. The court called it "an ordinary figurative mark."

To anticipate it right away: Contrary to what is often read now, Adidas has not lost (all) its trademark rights to the three stripes. Rather, the dispute involved a very specific design of the three stripes.

Adidas: EU Court Rules Against Three Stripes Trademark

Adidas registered these three strips in 2014.

Adidas registered above Three Stripes mark in 2014 as a Union trademark, i.e. a trademark with EU-wide validity, which will be registered at the "Office of the European Union for Intellectual Property" (EUIPO).

The Patrick (owned by Shoe Branding Europe) boot it started with

Shoe Branding Europe did not agree to this and filed a request for cancellation. The EUIPO granted this request in 2017 and cancelled the trademark. Adidas took the case to the European Union Court (EuG). This has now decided that EUIPO rightly cancelled the trademark (judgment of 19.06.2019, file no. T-307/17).

It said the company only provided evidence of its "acquired distinctive character" in five out of the EU's 28 member states. As such, the trademark "cannot, in the present case, be extrapolated to the entire territory of the EU."

"The mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements, but an ordinary figurative mark," the court said.

In 2014, EU intellectual property authorities approved of Adidas' three stripes trademark. However, the Belgium-based company Shoe Branding Europe challenged it, saying the trademark was not distinct enough.

Two years later, the EU Intellectual Property Office annulled Adidas' trademark, siding with the Belgian company's complaint.

The decision can still be appealed at the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court. However, Adidas only has two months to do so.

Adidas said in a statement the ruling did not impact other protected uses of the trademark in Europe.

“Whilst we are disappointed with the decision, we are further evaluating it and are welcoming the useful guidance that the court will give us for protecting our 3-stripe mark applied to our products in whichever direction in the future,” it said.

Do you think that we will see brands trying to release products with Three Stripes in order to challenge Adidas further? Share your thoughts in the comments below.