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Adidas Wins, Coke Loses EU Trademark Cases

(CN) - Coca-Cola's new streamlined bottle lacks "distinctive character" to be trademarked but Adidas' parallel stripes are a hallmark of its brand, according to two EU court judgments issued Wednesday.

In 2014, the European Union's trademark office denied Coca-Cola's application to register its new bottle design, rejecting the company's argument that the design should be regarded as a natural evolution of its iconic bottle shape - contoured with fluting.

Coke brought an action to annul the trademark office's decision before the European General Court, which agreed Wednesday that the new bottle lacks any characteristics that distinguish it from other soda bottles.

Furthermore, the Luxembourg-based lower court found that Coca-Cola had failed to establish that the new design had acquired distinctive character through use and dismissed the challenge in full.

Adidas, however, fared better in its fight over parallel striping on a competitor's tennis shoes.

Belgium-based Shoe Branding Europe filed an application with the EU trademark office in 2009, hoping to register the twin stripes on its athletic shoes. Adidas opposed the application, claiming Shoe Branding's stripes were too similar to the three parallel stripes on its shoes.

The trademark office rejected Adidas' challenge, leading to a lawsuit. In 2015, the European General Court sided with Adidas and said the trademark office was incorrect in finding the two shoemakers' stripes were visually dissimilar.

Unhappy with that ruling, Shoe Branding took the case to the European Court of Justice, which upheld the lower court's ruling on Wednesday.

The Luxembourg-based high court said despite minor differences between the stripes - different lengths due to differences in the angles of the striping - the lower court correctly determined those differences weren't sufficient enough to make the marks less similar or avoid potential customer confusion.

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