Sportswear giant Adidas has lost a trial against luxury brand Thom Browne Inc over its signature three stripes, with the jury ruling that the latter’s parallel stripe designs were unlikely to cause confusion with Adidas’ products. While the grand trial began on January 3, the dispute dates back to 2007 when Adidas first objected to the three bars on fashion designer Thom Browne’s clothing. Browne had changed the design to four stripes that same year, but the matter lingered on. Citing court documents in the case, a Reuters report said Adidas has since 2008 filed over 90 lawsuits related to the trademark, and also signed more than 200 settlement agreements.
Adidas, however, sued Browne only in June 2021, after the fashion designer became more prominent and began expanding further into activewear. The company said Browne’s four-bar signature and other products including activewear such as T-shirts, sweatpants and hoodies that feature the parallel stripes infringed on its well-known trademark, news agency The Associated Press reported.
Delivering the judgment, however, the Manhattan jury said Adidas failed to show the stripes used by Thom Browne Inc on its clothing infringed Adidas’s signature trademark.
Browne told AP that he hoped the jury decision in his favour would inspire others whose work is challenged by larger clothing producers.
“It was important to fight and tell my story. And I think it’s more important and bigger than me, because I think I was fighting for every designer that creates something and has a bigger company come after them later,” Browne said as he emerged from the New York courthouse victorious and smiling, the AP report said.
“I just want to design collections and I don’t want to ever be in a courtroom ever again,” Browne added.
However, though the designer is hoping this was his last courtroom fight over the issue, Adidas indicated in a statement that they might continue to fight the case.
“We are disappointed with the verdict and will continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals,” Adidas spokesperson Rich Efrus was quoted as saying in an email.
Who Is Thom Browne?
Thom Browne, a former competitive swimmer, is known as a highly creative designer and for his theatrical runway shows. He had opened his first boutique in 2001 in Manhattan’s West Village. In 2007, Adidas first noticed that Browne was using a three-stripe design, which was too similar to theirs, on a jacket. The apparel giant complained and the fashion designer changed the design to four stripes.
Browne started to become famous, and gained much prominence after striking a deal with luxury brand Zegna in 2018. His company opened stores in over 300 locations across the world, including London, Milan, Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Beijing, according to the AP report.
As the luxury brand started to expand into activewear, Adidas took serious note and sued it in June 2021.
The Adidas Vs Browne Trial
According to the AP report, Adidas argued in its lawsuit that stripes on Browne’s clothing could confuse customers. The designer, however, told the court that the two companies don’t serve the same market and hence are not direct competitors.
Browne himself testified during the trial.
The eight-member jury hearing the trial returned its verdict in less than two hours, the AP report said.
According to a court filing, as reported by Reuters, Adidas wanted to ask the jury for over $7.8 million in damages, besides additional punitive damages and also a cut of Browne’s infringing sales.