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The battle of the stripes continues: Adidas versus Thom Browne

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Designer Thom Browne arrives at a New York court. Photo credit: Michael M. Santiago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

In what is proving to be one of the fashion industry’s staunchest trademark battles, adidas is on a legal quest to protect its stripes, arguing Thom Browne’s four bars are too similar to its own three-stripe logo.

The German sportswear giant and New York-based luxury brand, now owned by Zegna, have been at loggerheads over the use of stripes for years, and this time round adidas is suing for 867,225 dollars in damages and 7 million dollars in lost sales.

Adidas in its filings said its logo is a recognisable “indicator of the origin of adidas’ goods” and existed “long before Thom Browne began distributing, marketing, promoting, offering for sale or selling” a similar motif." Adidas argues Thom Browne's mark “imitates [its] three-stripe mark in a manner that is likely to cause consumer confusion and deceive the public regarding its source, sponsorship, association, or affiliation,” which, in turn, is “irreparably harming adidas’ brand and its extremely valuable [mark].”

In the court's opening remarks, adidas’ council argued Thom Browne “purposely incorporated striped branding into its designs with the intention of drawing more attention to its sportswear category.”

Adidas reported revenue of its logo products surpassed 3bn dollars

Adidas has been keen to note its use of stripes in the US market has been in use since 1952 and that the company has an advertising budget of 300 million dollars per year. Its trademark stripes have made it a billion dollar business, with revenue of its logo products at 3.1 billion dollars.

Adidas first filed a trademark infringement complaint against Thom Browne in June 2021, although the designed has been using a four stripe motif since 2007, which has been a signature marker for the brand’s preppy tailoring and sporty lines. ‘Three stripes are not the same as four horizontal bars,’ said Thom Browne lawyer Robert Maldonado. ‘[adidas] fell asleep at the wheel and woke up too late,’ reported WWD. According to Thom Browne’s legal team, Adidas gave ‘consent’ to Browne’s use of stripes, even suggesting to use four instead of three.

The court decision will reverberate across the industry, as to fashion insiders there is little overlap between adidas sports gear and Thom Brown’s high-end apparel. Claims that customers are confused between an 80 dollar Adidas zip-up and a Thom Browne track jacket costing 900 dollars will not likely stand up, but the idea that Thom Browne’s business could be squashed after nearly two decades would be very controversial.

Thom Browne