EU Court Nixes Adidas Trademark on Stripe Design

(CN) – Adidas is not entitled to trademark three parallel stripes in any direction, Europe’s General Court ruled Wednesday, calling the design “inherently devoid of distinctive character” across the EU.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office first registered the mark in 2014 but annulled that registration two years later after it was challenged by the Belgian company Shoe Branding Europe BVBA.

In upholding that decision Wednesday, the Luxembourg-based General Court said that the court had to overlook much of the evidence supplied by Adidas because color scheme could not be taken into account.

Adidas emphasized that the ruling pertains only to the design of three stripes in any direction.

There is no “impact on the broad scope of protection that Adidas has on its well-known 3-Stripe mark in various forms in Europe,” Adidas spokesman Roman Mohlinger said in an email.

In today’s ruling, the court noted that Adidas had supplied 23 market surveys conducted across the EU from 1983 to 2011, but that most of the surveys were excluded as irrelevant.

The five surveys permitted were conducted between 2009 and 2011 in Germany, Estonia, Spain, France and Romania.

“According to the findings of those market surveys the degree of distinctiveness for the general public is: 57% in Germany, 48.3% in Estonia, 47.1% in Spain, 52.0% in France and 30.6% in Romania,” the ruling states.

Specialized for sportswear meanwhile, “the degree of distinctiveness is higher and reaches 63.5% in Germany, 52.4% in Estonia, 62.7% in Spain, 62.7% in France and 43.2% in Romania,” the ruling continues.

The court found this evidence insufficient to show that the other 23 member states not covered by the surveys have comparable domestic markets.

Adidas did not fare any better by noting that it sponsors both European and international sporting competitions.

Spokesman Mohlinger thanked the court for sharing its insights.

“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 3-Stripe mark applied to our products in whichever direction in the future,” Mohlinger added.

In addition to having ruled against Adidas today, the European General Court dismissed two challenges last year by Shoe Branding Europe, which sought to trademark a two-stripe mark.

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