adidas' Three-Stripes Trademark Lawsuit Against Thom Browne Will Not Go Back to Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against adidas’ appeal to overturn the jury’s verdict, and Judge Jed Rakoff ruled against a motion for a new trial.

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On Friday, Thom Browne again won the court’s favor in his ongoing legal battle with adidas over his usage of stripes on his designs, according to WWD.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against adidas’ appeal to overturn an eight-person jury’s verdict in Manhattan’s Southern District Court in January of last year. At the time, the jury declared that the American luxury designer did not infringe on adidas’ Three Stripes trademark and therefore was not liable for damages or profits from selling products with four stripes or its trademark grosgrain ribbon.

After considering the German sportswear brand’s appeal that the judge chose to exclude an important testimony, the court stated, “We have considered Adidas’s remaining arguments and find them to be without merit. For the foregoing reasons, the judgement of the district court is affirmed.”

“We are extremely pleased by the Court of Appeals’ ruling which affirmed the judgment of the District Court and found no legal basis to overturn the jury’s finding that Thom Browne Inc. did not infringe Adidas’s three-stripe mark,” a Thom Browne spokesperson told WWD.

Additionally, Judge Jed Rakoff, who presided over the original lawsuit last year, ruled against adidas’ appeal for a new trial against Browne. His order stated that “upon full consideration of the parties’ various submissions in connect with this motion and the record of the evidentiary hearing . . . the court hereby denies Adidas’s motion.”

The sportswear brand asked for a new trial after finding four emails from Browne’s employees, which cautioned the designer about using stripes as they could potentially cause confusion with adidas’ brand, that were not disclosed in the first trial’s discovery.

Browne stated that the emails were not hidden on purpose and that they did not appear in their initial searches. Three emails were sent in regards to designs for the FC Barcelona football team, and one was about a retail store in Asia, meaning none were relevant to the case.

The trial dates back to June 2021, when adidas filed a trademark infringement and dilution complaint against Thom Browne, arguing that “despite Thom Browne’s knowledge of [its] rights in the famous three-stripe mark,” the New York fashion brand “has expanded its product offerings far beyond [its] formal wear and business attire specialty.” The filing also claimed that Browne was “selling athletic-style apparel and footwear featuring two, three or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to adidas’ three-stripe mark.”

Browne had initially included three stripes in his varsity collections, and adidas’ attorney R. Charles Henn Jr. of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP stated that when adidas noticed the motif in 2007, the brand approached Browne’s then-CEO to inquire about changing the logo. At the time, Browne agreed to change his design to include four stripes.

adidas was seeking $867,225 USD in damages for would-be licensing fees and an additional $7 million USD in profits that it alleged the New York brand made from products with stripes, according to Henn.

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