Thom Browne Wins Two More Rounds in Court Battle With Adidas on the Use of Stripes

It was a double whammy for Adidas on Friday when Thom Browne won two more battles in his fight with the sports brand over the use of stripes on his garments.

First, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said it would not overturn the jury verdict reached in January of 2023 that found Browne’s use of four stripes and its grosgrain ribbon did not infringe upon Adidas’s three-stripe trademark.

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In its summary order, the court found no compelling reason for a new trial based on Adidas’s attempts to have certain testimony excluded, writing: “We have considered Adidas’s remaining arguments and find them to be without merit. For the foregoing reasons, the judgement of the district court is affirmed.”

“We are extremely pleased by the Court of Appeals’ ruling which affirmed the judgment of the District Court and found no legal basis to overturn the jury’s finding that Thom Browne Inc. did not infringe Adidas’s three-stripe mark,” a spokesperson for Thom Browne told WWD Friday.

Shortly after, word came down that Judge Jed Rakoff, who had presided over the original lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, ruled that Adidas’s motion for a new trial was denied. Rakoff’s order was one paragraph long, saying that “upon full consideration of the parties’ various submissions in connect with this motion and the record of the evidentiary hearing . . . the court hereby denies Adidas’s motion.” Further details are expected to be released soon.

Adidas America and Adidas AG had sued the designer, seeking damages of $867,225 — the amount the companies agree they would have received in licensing fees from Thom Browne Inc., if the two had worked together — as well as more than $7 million in profits they alleged the American designer made from selling apparel and footwear with stripes.

An eight-person jury in Manhattan Southern District Court came back with a verdict that found the designer was not liable for either damages or profits. However, Adidas appealed that decision.

And then, last October, Adidas asked for a new trial because it discovered four emails that were not disclosed by Thom Browne during the discovery period for the original trial.

Those emails, which dated between 2016 and 2019, were from employees who cautioned the designer about using specific stripe designs in its collections because they could potentially create confusion with Adidas. They surfaced during a separate trademark dispute between the two companies in the U.K.

In its response, Thom Browne said that the emails were not intentionally concealed but instead did not surface during computer-generated searches. Additionally, the designer said three of the emails in question were about product that was being designed for the Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona, and the fourth was about a retail store in Asia and therefore did not reference the product in the U.S. suit.

Although Judge Rakoff denied Adidas’s motion, the company could appeal that decision as well.

Browne had been using three stripes on his collections for many years to reference collegiate varsity sweaters, but, after being approached by Adidas in 2007, agreed to change the design to four parallel bars.

Adidas has been using its three-stripe bar in the U.S. since the 1950s. The athletic brand spends $300 million a year advertising the stripes, and products sporting the mark account for $3.1 billion in annual sales.

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