Adidas Lose Logo Trademark With Declaration 3 Stripe Design is Not Distinctive Enough
The European Union’s second highest court, the General Court of the EU, has ruled Adidas’s logo design as too ordinary to be trademarked. This decision comes after a decade long dispute with Belgian company Shoe Branding Europe who applied to the EU intellectual property office to have Adidas’s trademarked logo annulled.
What is a trademark and why do you need one?
A trademark can be a symbol or design used to distinguish your goods or services. It can include anything that will make your brand or service distinctive, such as letters, numbers, phrases, logos or pictures. Things that can’t be trademarked include generic terms or phrases, vulgar or immoral words or symbols or proper names without the consent from the person.
A licensed trademark design means no one else in Australia can use your trademark image within the class of goods or services it falls under. You can also register your trademark internationally. A trademark will help protect the image associated with your goods and stop others from imitating the brand.
The Adidas case
In this case, Adidas failed to “prove that that mark has acquired, throughout the territory of the EU, distinctive character following the use which had been made of it.” The logo was originally trademarked in 2014 as “three parallel equidistant stripes of identical width, applied on the product in any direction”, which included on clothing, hats and shoes. Shoe Branding Europe applied for the trademark to be annulled in 2016 after Shoe Branding had their two-stripe trademark declared invalid as it was too similar to Adidas’s. In 2003, Adidas also lost a dispute against its three-stripe trademark to Dutch company, Fitnessworld who was also using a two-strip design.
In order to succeed in the court, Adidas was required to show the mark had acquired a distinctive character, which customers could easily depict in comparison to other countries. The court said the use of colour was not relevant to the logo, and the symbol was more an ‘ordinary figurative mark’. The company only provided evidence of the mark’s distinctiveness in 5 different EU countries, but not throughout the EU trading bloc.
The Adidas logo was first registered by Adi Dassler, founder of the brand, in 1949. Appearing on a football boot at the time, the court said it was not sufficient to connect the current products as originating from that brand.
Adidas is able to appeal the decision to the European Court of Justice within the next two months.
What does this tell us about trademark law in Australia?
This case shows us the importance of understanding what kinds of symbols can be trademarked, and what is a distinctive or distinguishable logo.
As a take-home message, it is vital you consult a lawyer when generating logo’s and ideas while ensuring your product is both distinguishable and legally validated. Your lawyer should be able to help you with this process and advise you if and when your logo has been trademarked.
Want to know more about intellectual property protection or trademark law? Looking for an experienced solicitor in Newcastle, Sydney or the Hunter to advise you on a legal matter? Call us on (02) 4929 7002, email us or complete an enquiry form.