Adidas AG fell short in its efforts to protect broader trademark rights to its three-stripe mark, as the European Union ruled the design was not distinctive enough for protection. This decision invalidated its 2014 trademark registration on “three parallel equidistant stripes of identical width” which are applied on products “in any discretion.”
“Adidas does not prove that that mark has acquired, throughout the territory of the EU, distinctive character following the use which had been made of it,” the court wrote in its decision summary.
Adidas said in a statement it was “disappointed” in the ruling which obstructed the company’s effort “to get even more protection for the three parallel stripes mark.”
Although the ruling will not affect Adidas’ other EU trademarks, it’s significant in that Adidas has sued over the three-stripe mark in recent years in United States courts. Adidas has sued companies such as Puma, Marc Jacobs, Sears, Sketchers, Forever 21, and other products over infringement of the mark. According to Law360.com, the decision affirmed a 2016 ruling by the European Intellectual Property Office which favored a Belgian company called Shoe Branding Europe. The company challenged the agency’s initial acceptance of Adidas’ trademark registration.
This creates a pathway for other companies to use the widely recognized three stripes on clothing. While the Adidas logo itself is safe from mimicked forms through its secured trademark, this could cause confusion among consumers. Adidas can appeal the ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is the top court of the European Union.