• English

07.02.2023 | by Lili


The strike of the stripes



The battle of the stripes seems to be over (at least for now.) In the court case of Adidas vs. Thom Browne, the court has recently ruled in favour of the latter.


While it’s not our job to evaluate the justification of the case and subsequent ruling, it’s certainly interesting to take a look at what happened and whether it could have any future implication for the protection of your brand’s IP rights.



The case of Adidas vs. Thom Browne

It seems that the German sportswear giant and the American high fashion clothing brand have always been at odds about the use of stripes. Founded in 2003, luxury fashion designer Thom Browne used three horizontal stripes on several of its products untilAdidas complained that this design was too similar to its own logo of three stripes.


Thom Browne conceded and added another stripe to its designs. Ever since 2008, the high fashion brand employed four stripes on its products and all was well until in 2018, Adidas objected to Thom Browne’s trademark application in the EU.


Matters escalated to court in 2021 when Adidas filed a lawsuit claiming that Thom Browne’s designs created confusion in consumers and allowed them to mistake Thom Browne products for Adidas.


Screenshot of a pair of Thom Browne trousers displayed on Thombrowne.com Screenshot of a pair of Adidas trousers displayed on Adidas.com
Screenshot of a pair of Thom Browne trousers displayed on Thombrowne.com Screenshot of a pair of Adidas trousers displayed on Adidas.com


As we mentioned earlier, the court eventually ruled in favour of Thom Browne, citing that Adidas has failed to prove the infringement on its IP rights and that consumers shouldn’t be confused by the use of three vs. four stripes on various articles of clothing.



Adidas vs other brands

Thom Browne is not the only brand in Adidas’ bad books. In fact, Adidas has repeatedly sued other manufactures over the use of stripes on their products. Since 2008, the sportswear giant has initiated over 90 court cases and has signed more than 200 settlement agreements. The opponents include J. Crew, Forever 21, Juicy Couture, Tesla, and even German sportswear-manufacturer Smilodox.


Most recently, Adidas has made the headlines thanks to a case against civil rights organisation Black Lives Matter. The latter is trying to trademark its logo, three yellow horizontal lines - which, according to the complaint Adidas submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office, can be mistaken for the sportswear company’s own three stripes, especially on merchandise produced by both organisations, like carrier bags, sports shirts and even websites.


However, just two days after filing the claim, Adidas backtracked and withdrew its application, allowing BLM to go ahead with registering its trademark.


While Adidas is certainly known for taking a more active approach in protecting its trademark, similar disputes among other brands are not uncommon. Take the case of Apple Corps (the music production company founded by the Beatles) vs. Apple Inc (as in iPhones and Co, founded by Steve Jobs.) The use of the name Apple, as well as the picture of the actual fruit, has been the subject of several court cases between the two companies. Currently, the two are in agreement about who’s allowed to use what and in what context.


And what about Louis Vuitton the fashion company vs. Louis Vuiton Dak the South Korean chicken restaurant? In that case, there can be no talk of a coincidental use of a commonly known fruit. Since the court found that the South Korean restaurant intentionally used a name and imagery similar to the fashion brand, they were forced to change their name and pay a fine.



Image of a Louis Vuitton Storefront with the company’s signature monogram LV

Image of a Louis Vuitton Storefront with the company’s signature monogram LV



But let’s leave the matters of the court to lawyers. It’s not the job of online brand protection experts to decide who’s right in cases like these.


Our job comes earlier in the process: it’s up to us to find potential infringements, so that your brand even has a chance to take IP infringements to court.



IP rights and online brand protection

How did Louis Vuitton find out about Louis Vuiton Dak? Probably not because the CEO of the French fashion giant happened to walk past the small eatery in South Korea.


But such infringements don’t only happen to well-known international luxury brands who are notified by concerned fans, or who have a large network of lawyers at their disposal to act upon such issues.


In fact, IP infringements happen to brands of all sizes across all industries. But what if you lack the means of support Louis Vuitton has? Then the infringement can continue for who knows how long, damaging your brand, your reputation and your bottom line in the process.


Unless you set up a comprehensive online brand protection program. We at globaleyez have extensive experience in IP rights protection and have created many tailor-made solutions for brands facing all kinds of trademark issues.


Our highly scalable services are geared towards detecting potentially IP infringing content on online marketplaces, social media, and elsewhere on the internet. With keyword-based searches, we can quickly come across product listings, social media posts, domains, and other types of content that may infringe upon your IP rights.


But what if fraudsters are using images? Actually, that’s very often the case, which is why we developed our image monitoring service. With a systematic, organized succession of reverse image searches, our state-of-the-art software infrimage detects stolen product pictures and brand imagery.


Image searches (along with all of our other services) can be tailored to your exact needs. For instance, take a look at the results of an image search we did in the framework of the three vs. any other number of stripes issue.



Screenshot of infrimage displaying some results for shoes featuring two stripes

Screenshot of infrimage displaying some results for shoes featuring two stripes



As you can see, infrimage detects not only direct replicas, but similar products that try to rip your brand off by slightly resembling your originals.


If you want to escalate the infringement issue to court, globaleyez can support your case by gathering court admissible evidence. Screenshots taken with our tool, screenseal are fitted with a timestamp recognized in court. In addition, all the documentation we create while running our services are also admissible in court, helping you build a solid case against fraudsters infringing on your IP rights.


Don’t let fraudsters take advantage of your brand. Contact us and let’s devise a tailor-made strategy together to protect your IP rights.