Adidas has lost a court case against the designer Thom Browne, after the sportswear company said the use of four stripes in his designs was too close to its trademark three-stripe logo.
A jury in New York on Thursday rejected the accusation. If successful, Adidas had been asking for $867,225 (£711,244) in potential licensing fees and more than $7m to represent the profit Adidas believes Browne made by using the stripes.
Adidas’s three stripes date back to 1952, when its founder, Adi Dassler, bought the branding from the Finnish sports company Karhu for two bottles of whiskey. It is now a motif used by the brand on everything from trainers to tracksuits. Browne’s four stripes have been used around the edge of a sock or on the arm of a blazer. Browne attended court proceedings in shorts, displaying socks with four stripes.
The designer’s lawyers suggested Adidas was an affordable sports brand worn by people all over the world, while Thom Browne is a high-end fashion company with catwalk collections and celebrity clientele. The price difference is certainly stark. A Thom Browne cardigan with four stripes is £1,300 while an Adidas track top with three stripes is available for £36. Browne’s team argued stripes were a design used by many brands. “Adidas does not own stripes,” said the designer’s lawyer.
Adidas initially took legal action against Browne in 2021. In a statement, Adidas said it was disappointed but would “continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals”.
Browne’s four stripes can be dated back to 2007, when Adidas said a jacket with three stripes was too close to its design. The designer modified his work in response.
A spokesperson for Browne said the brand was pleased with the outcome. “We look forward to continuing to design and provide the creative products that have become the hallmark of the Thom Browne label,” they said.
The designer hoped for his victory would inspire other independent brands when faced with threats from large companies. “It was important to fight and tell my story,” he told Associated Press.