Not all stripes are Adidas stripes, the German sportswear giant has learnt the hard way.
Thom Browne came out on top in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Adidas on January 12, 2023. An eight-person jury in New York rejected Adidas’s claim that the four-striped designs used by Browne’s company were too similar to their signature three-stripe design used widely across all its products.
Adidas, which was seeking almost $7.8 million in disgorgement and damages, indicated that it may push back on the decisions.
“We are disappointed with the verdict and will continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals,” Rich Efrus, an Adidas spokesperson, told the Associated Press in an email.
Adidas has filed over 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements since 2008 related to the trademark, according to court documents in the case. Thom Browne previously used a three-bar design on its clothing, changing it to the four-stripe design after Adidas objected in 2007.
- The eight-person jury ruled in favour of Thom Browne, after it was sued by Adidas in 2021 for $7.8 million over claims it “imitate[d]” Adidas’ signature three-stripe logo and motif, according to Bloomberg Law.
- The suit centred around Browne’s “Four-Bar Signature” stripes design, and the brand’s Grosgrain Signature—a red, white and blue line pattern design, which Browne’s team argued in court documents featured five stripes, but Adidas lawyers said was just three, according to CNN.
- The trial at Manhattan’s Southern District Court lasted just one week, and the jury deliberated for three hours.
- Aspokesperson for Adidas said it is “disappointed with the verdict” and will continue to “vigilantly enforce” its “intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals.”
A brief timeline of Adidas vs. Thom Browne
2001: Thom Browne launches his eponymous made-to-measure menswear label four years after moving to New York to pursue a career in fashion. Prior to setting up his own line, he worked as a tailor, a salesperson for Giorgio Armani, and a designer for Club Monaco.
2003: Browne opens his first storefront in New York City
2007: Adidas complains Browne’s three-stripe design on a jacket was too similar to their own, prompting Browne to switch to four stripes.
2018: Browne’s brand, which is expanding into activewear by now, becomes more popular. Italian luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna acquires an 85% stake in the company
June 2021: Adidas sues Thom Browne, alleging that “Despite Thom Browne’s knowledge of Adidas’s rights in the famous Three-Stripe Mark, Thom Browne has expanded its product offerings far beyond formal wear and business attire and is now offering for sale and 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.”
This is a big win for Thom Brown, and sets a new precedent in a fashion that even if a brand becomes well-known for its signature style or the way certain elements are used in any specific order, does not give them exclusivity.
This case study has been written by Himanshu Ranjan during his internship with MikeLegal.