CJEU widens protection for Adidas’ stripes
The German sports gear company, Adidas, has been subject to a new decision from the Court of Justice in the European Union (CJEU). The case demonstrates that well-known trademarks are offered a broad protection, even though the trademark may appear simple.
The company Shoe Brandings applied for trademark registration of a mark consisting of two diagonal stripes on a sports shoe.
Adidas saw this trademark to be an infringement of their trademark consisting of three diagonal stripes, and they objected to the registration – first to the European Trademark Office (EUIPO) and later to the Board of Appeal.
EUIPO and the Board of Appeal found that Adidas’ well-known stripes were only protected against identical or virtually identical copies. As the stripes from Shoe Brandings were not an identical copy, they found no risk of confusion to be present.
The decision was presented to the General Court. Against the decision of EUIPO and the Board of Appeal, the general Court found that there were some similarities between the trademarks and therefore a risk of confusion. The general Court focused on the fact, that an informed consumer would not be able to distinguish the trademarks from each other. The CJEU agreed with the General Court.
The decision demonstrates that not only stripes identical to those of Adidas, but also stripes with other dimensions, length and numbers can be an infringement of the Adidas trademark.
This is not the first time Adidas has objected to other trademarks. There have been cases in both Spain and the Netherlands were Adidas won against companies who had used stripes as a part of their product.
The stripes have also been subject to a case in Denmark. The case regarded a jacket, which was sold in the Supermarket Kvickly. The jacket had four stripes down its sleeves similar to those of Adidas, but the Danish Supreme Court did not see the stripes as an infringement of the Adidas mark. This case can be considered contrary to the CJEU decision.
With the Adidas ruling, the CJEU determines that well-known trademark are subject to a broadened protection, even though they may appear simple in design. With this ruling, Adidas will have a strong case against future infringements.
If you wish to learn more about well-known trademarks, or have questions in general about trademark protection, feel free to contact us.
By Martin Hoffgaard Rasmussen