EU Court Rules Adidas ‘Three-Stripe’ Trademark Invalid

The second-highest court in the European Union has upheld a 2016 decision by the European Union Intellectual Property Office to annul the registration of the iconic three-stripe trademark.

The General Court of the European Union has found on Wednesday that Adidas’ signature branding consisting of three parallel stripes to be invalid as it is devoid of a distinctive feature.

The court upheld the decision of the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in 2016 to annul its registration on the same basis.

Wednesday’s ruling marks part of a bitter dispute between Adidas and Belgian footwear company Shoe Branding Europe BBVA.

After Shoe Branding applied to register a two-stripe trademark in 2009, Adidas challenged that move by saying that the two-stripe branding was too similar to its own design. Adidas argued that consumers might confuse the two brands’ products, which would effectively result in the Belgian company benefiting from Adidas’ image.

Last year, Adidas scored a victory in the same court, which ruled that Shoe Branding’s pending trademark application was invalid. However, Adidas needed to show that its own mark, registered in 2014, has a “distinctive character” through use throughout the European Union, so that consumers could distinguish it from products of another company.

But the General Court viewed Adidas’ three-stripe design as an “ordinary figurative mark” rather than a pattern, and said Adidas had proven that the mark had acquired a distinctive character only in five EU countries but not throughout the bloc.

Adidas can still appeal the decision in the European Court of Justice.


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