As one of the most well known sports brand across the world, Adidas are hot on protecting their brand.
Having obtained a trade mark in respect of their three stripe design which features on all of their clothing and footwear, they are keen to ensure there is no stripe competition.
After success on a previous occasion, Adidas took aim at a Belgian shoe company.
The company in question is Shoe Branding Europe who made two applications with the EU Intellectual Property Office in respect of footwear. The marks feature two stripes which are positioned on an angle.
When the applications were published, Adidas filed an opposition against both applications, based on their ‘three stripe’ trade mark, which is protected in respect of footwear.
Adidas didn’t succeed straight away as their opposition was rejected by the EU Intellectual Property Office’s opposition division and the Second Board of Appeal in 2013.
Adidas appealed to the EU General Court who gave them their piece of success as they ruled in 2015 that Shoe Branding’s marks would cause stripe confusion.
However, this is not where the case ended. Shoe Branding were the ones to file an appeal, this time to the Court of Justice of European Union, arguing that the existence of other two stripe marks alongside Adidas shows there is no likelihood of confusion. In addition, Shoe Branding highlighted the differing lengths of the stripes as a distinguishing feature.
The CJEU highlighted that there was no coexistence agreement between the two companies; therefore the finding of likelihood of confusion was correct.
Following this the case went back to the Appeal board that amended their decision in favour of Adidas.
However, again Shoe Branding appealed the decision back to the General Court on the grounds that a global assessment of confusion was not made.
The General Court, putting the matter to bed, held that the relevant public was considered and Shoe Branding’s marks would take ‘unfair advantage of Adidas’s three stripe marks.
Therefore it seems Adidas has won this battle, but the war continues as Shoe Branding has had success in another claim against Adidas’s stripe marks. Therefore watch this space for more stripe squabbling.
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