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Adidas loses three stripes trademark ruling

The EU’s General Court ruled the symbol was not distinctive enough across the 28-country bloc.

Adidas has the option of appealing the decision (Yui Mok/PA)
Adidas has the option of appealing the decision (Yui Mok/PA)

Adidas’s three-stripe logo has been ruled invalid as a trademark after an EU court ruled it was not distinctive enough across the 28-member bloc.

The General Court of the European Union ruled that the three parallel stripes are “an ordinary figurative mark”.

In doing so, the court upheld a 2016 ruling by the EU’s intellectual property regulator cancelling the registration of the three-stripe design as a trademark following a challenge by a Belgian shoe company.

The court said in a statement: “The General Court of the EU confirms the invalidity of the Adidas EU trade mark 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.”

It said Adidas had not proved the motif had acquired a “distinctive character” throughout the 28 countries of the bloc that would qualify for legal protection.

Adidas has the option of appealing the decision.

The company said: “Adidas is disappointed with the recent ruling by the General Court to uphold the cancellation of the company’s three-stripe mark applied to our products in whichever direction in Europe.

“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.

“Whilst we are disappointed with the decision, we are further evaluating it and are welcoming the useful guidance that the court will give us for protecting our three-stripe mark applied to our products in whichever direction in the future.”

The ruling is the latest round in a long legal tussle between Adidas and Belgian rival Shoe Branding Europe, which won trademark status for a two-stripe design, triggering court action from the German firm.

Shireen Peermohamed, a partner in the intellectual property team at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said: “The General Court’s decision emphasises the rigour that is needed when it comes to proving that a mark like this has acquired the necessary degree of recognition as a brand belonging to a particular company.

“The decision is not surprising. If a brand owner cannot demonstrate use of a trademark throughout the EU then their trademark could be cancelled down the line, or, as here, never registered in the first place.

“Brand owners should review their EU trademarks, and particularly the more unusual pattern, position, shape and figurative ones, to make sure their scope is clear and that they are using them in the form registered.”

PA

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