J. Crew’s stripes in question appear to be quite different from adidas’ identical three parallel stripes, as the pattern contains five stripes of varying widths in ivory, navy and burgundy. Even so, “the brand with the three stripes” is insisting that “consumers familiar with the goods and services long associated with [its] three-stripe mark are likely to assume that the goods and services offered under [J. Crew] originate from the same source, or that they are affiliated, connected, or associated with [adidas].”
adidas specifically trademarked three stripes as early as 1952 and has no plans of backing down against this particular variation from J.Crew, even though the American retailer is widely known for its preppy use of striped patterns. The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB) agreed to suspend the matter for 60 days, allowing the two brands to duke it out away from the courtroom. However, if there is no conclusion within the next two months, the TTAB will begin overseeing the dispute again.
adidas is no stranger to fighting for its stripes, but unlike logos, the water gets murkier when attempting to claim classic patterns. Past lawsuits and cease and desist letters against brands like Forever 21, Sketchers and even Tesla have lead other retailers to begin questioning: can patterns be legally claimed? Forever 21 even filed a lawsuit of its own against adidas in 2017, stating that the many cease and desist letters it received from adidas “essentially assert that no item of clothing can have any number of stripes in any location without infringing adidas’s trademarks.” Other prominent fashion labels have also been fighting tireless fights for their iconic patterns, including Burberry who filed a lawsuit against Target for appropriating its tan, red and black “Burberry Check” pattern just last year.
In other intellectual property news, Milkcrate Athletics is currently battling Under Armour and adidas over logo theft.