Adidas Will Fight Anyone Trying to Trademark Stripes. Its Latest Target: J.Crew.

The sportswear company has filed 16 trademark opposition cases this year

Adidas Originals Logo
Adidas believes its three parallel stripes are so iconic that no other brand can trademark stripe designs.
Christian Wiediger/Unsplash
By Alex Lauer / August 27, 2019 4:52 pm

It’s a common myth that the Adidas name is an acronym for “all day I dream about soccer,” or “sports” (it’s actually named after founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler). But these days, the sportswear company may just get a new backronym: All day I dream about stripes. 

While Adidas has been publicly vying for your sneaker dollars against the Nike juggernaut, they’ve been privately waging a war in the trademark office over the use of stripes. The brand’s latest target is J.Crew.

According to Law360, J.Crew filed a trademark application last year with the United States Patent and Trademark office for a design consisting of five parallel bands of color including burgundy, ivory, navy blue, ivory and burgundy, in that order. The clothing brand hoped to use the five-stripe design “on apparel ranging from tops and shorts to bowties and pajamas, as well as handbags, luggage, business card cases, and beach bags,” writes The Fashion Law. Then last week, Adidas swooped in to block it.

Adidas and J.Crew Stripes
The Adidas stripes [left] versus the proposed J.Crew trademark design [right]. Are they too similar?
Adidas claims the five multi-colored stripes proposed by J.Crew are too similar to its own three black stripes. Specifically, as quoted in The Fashion Law, the sportswear company “believes that [it] will be damaged by the issuance of a registration” to J.Crew; it worries that consumers will assume that J.Crew is “affiliated, connected, or associated with [adidas]”; and it is hopelessly verklempt that J.Crew’s design would “dilute the distinctiveness of the three-stripe mark by eroding consumers’ exclusive identification of the three-stripe mark with adidas.” Really.

If that sounds paranoid, ridiculous or indefensible, you’d be right on the first two. Adidas has been fighting a constant battle to protect its stripe design, many times successfully. In 2019 alone, the company has filed 16 Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cases, according to Law360. 

In 2017, it challenged Tesla’s Model 3 logo, and Tesla changed it (though reportedly not because of Adidas). That same year, it settled a case out of court against Forever 21 who called Adidas a “bully.” But it hasn’t been a clean sweep — this past June, a huge trademark push for the design in the EU failed.

Against J.Crew, however, Adidas is looking like it will win out. According to The Fashion Law, the brands “are attempting to resolve their trademark differences on their own.” Will J.Crew stand up to the bully? Or will it stay on its downward trend to irrelevancy?

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