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Adidas logo not of ‘distinctive character’ rules EU court

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Alice Sanderson, June 24, 2019

In a blow for Adidas, an EU court has ruled that their three stripes logo is not distinctive enough to be registered as a trademark.

The court ruled that the three parallel stripes are nothing more than “an ordinary figurative mark”, basing their judgement on a legal challenge last year by a Belgian shoe company who failed to secure trademark status for a similar two-stripe design.

Adidas had been embroiled in a long court battle with Shoe Branding Europe, with Adidas wanting to establish a trademark for "three parallel equidistant stripes of equal width applied to the product in whichever direction".

The three-stripe logo was first registered on a football boot in 1949 by the company’s founder, Adi Dassler.

However, in a statement the EU court said “The general court of the EU confirms the invalidity of the Adidas EU trademark, which consists of three parallel stripes applied in any direction. The mark is not a pattern mark composed of a series of regularly repetitive elements, but an ordinary figurative mark."

While the ruling resulted in a 1.8% drop in shares for Adidas, it marked another victory for Shoe Branding Europe, who had previously challenged the three-stripe design being trademarked in 2016 and were backed up by an intellectual property regulator in Brussels.

That verdict was upheld by the EU court on Wednesday, who said that Adidas were unable to prove the motif was of “distinctive character” throughout the EU, which meant it was ineligible for legal protection.

Until Shoe Branding Europe stepped in, Adidas had managed to secure an EU trademark for the three stripes in 2014.

However, in 2016 the firm applied for the trademark to be annulled and disputed the ruling because one of its brands, Patrick, features two stripes on its shoes and clothing, although the slope of the design is in the opposite direction to those on Adidas products.

Adidas say they are disappointed by the judgement but are still evaluating its implications.

They have the option to appeal the decision, but in a statement, the company said, “This ruling is limited to this particular execution of the three-stripe mark and does not impact on the broad scope of protection that Adidas has on its well-known three-stripe mark in various forms in Europe.”

The ruling follows a number of other brands who have failed to secure trademarks for their products, such as the recent case in July last year where Nestlé failed to trademark the design of the KitKat.

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