The Adidas three-stripe logo is famous and many fans think it’s cool, but it’s just not distinctive enough to deserve trademark protection, an EU court ruled Wednesday.
The three-stripe logo was first registered by Adidas’s founder, Adi Dassler, on a football boot on 18 August 1949, but the court said it was not sufficient to identify the products as originating from the brand.
The ruling is part of a long-running dispute between the German sportswear manufacturer and the Belgian company Shoe Branding Europe.
The fight between the two shoemakers stemmed from an earlier legal battle, though, in which Adidas successfully opposed Shoe Branding’s registration of a two-stripe trademark for its sneaker and sportswear brand Patrick. In that case, the court found that Shoe Branding’s stripes were confusingly similar to Adidas’ two-stripe trademark, and blocked the registration.
Adidas, which can appeal to the European court of justice, said it was “disappointed” with the ruling but still evaluating its implications.
“This ruling is limited to this particular execution of the three-stripe mark and does not impact on the broad scope of protection that Adidas has on its well-known three-stripe mark in various forms in Europe,” the company said in a statement.
Adidas’ most recent setback doesn’t mean it is no longer entitled to protect its intellectual property. In fact, the company has numerous other three-stripe trademarks registered in the EU. But Wednesday’s ruling may limit its scope.
Wednesday’s ruling could erode the value of the Adidas brand, currently worth $14.3 billion, according to David Haigh, chief executive of consultancy Brand Finance.
“The name is more important but the recognizable three stripes are also a major contributor to recognition,” he said.