Adidas can’t make American label Thom Browne stop using 4-stripe design on its clothing, jury rules

January 13, 2023, 3:13 PM UTC
Adidas shoes seen on a on a store shelf in San Cristobal de las Casas in Jan. 2022.
Adidas has lost its legal fight against Thom Browne's 4-stripe design.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sportswear titan Adidas has lost a legal battle that capped off a 15-year fight to stop an American fashion label using designs similar to its own.

On Thursday, a court ruled against Adidas’s bid to stop luxury New York-based designer Thom Browne from using a four-stripe design on its clothing.

Adidas clothing regularly features variations of its iconic three-stripe logo, while Browne’s designs often include four horizontal stripes.

Adidas, which accused the Thom Browne brand of producing designs that resembled its own classic triple-stripe design too closely, had planned to seek $7.8 million in damages as well as a cut of the latter’s infringing sales, news agency Reuters reported.

It had also sought a court order to stop Browne’s company from using its four-stripe design.

However, a jury in New York voted in Browne’s favor, finding that Browne was liable for neither trademark infringement nor trademark dilution, as Adidas had alleged.  

A spokesperson for Adidas told Fortune on Friday that the company was disappointed with the verdict but “will continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals.”

Designer Thom Browne arrives at court in New York on Jan. 3, 2023, wearing his signature shorts suit paired with his label’s four-stripe socks.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

In court proceedings, Browne’s team had countered that consumers were unlikely to confuse the two brands, pointing out that his apparel bore four stripes rather than three.

His lawyers contended that Browne and Adidas served different kinds of shoppers, with the Thom Browne label mostly serving luxury consumers as opposed to sportswear buyers. They had also argued that stripes were commonly used across fashion design.

Adidas’s gripe with Browne dates all the way back to 2007, when the former objected to the American label using a three-stripe design on its jackets. Thom Browne added a fourth stripe to its designs after Adidas’s initial complaint.

The German sportswear behemoth sued Browne’s brand in 2021, claiming the patterns on the company’s shoes and activewear was a breach of its trademarked design.

Since 2008, Adidas has filed more than 90 lawsuits and 200 settlements relating to its three-stripe trademark, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing court documents.

Who is Thom Browne?

Thom Browne is an American designer who launched his label in 2003 when he started selling made-to-measure gray suits in New York City’s West Village.

His company has rapidly expanded to be sold in more than 300 locations around the world, and now produces high-end footwear, accessories and women’s and children’s collections.

Before pursuing a career in fashion design, Browne—who studied economics at college—briefly worked in business consulting.

He has dressed a number of high-profile celebrities, including former First Lady Michelle Obama and rapper Cardi B.

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