Adidas vs Nike: Who will win the fight over the stripes?

Adidas vs Nike: Who will win the fight over the stripes?

In the trademark dispute between Adidas and Nike, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court is deciding how much protection the famous stripes have. Is Nike allowed to sew them onto clothing or not?

This is original content from the Capital brand. This article will be available for ten days on stern.de. After that, you will find it exclusively on capital.de. Capital, like the star to RTL Germany.

There are always tussles between the two largest sports equipment manufacturers, Adidas and Nike – most recently it received a lot of media attention when the DFB announced the change of equipment supplier for the national team from Adidas to Nike.

But this time, the two brands are even fighting in court – over the famous stripes. Because just as Nike has the “Swoosh,” Adidas actually has the three parallel stripes. But in 2022, Nike released a sports pants design that also had two or three parallel stripes on the outer seam. The pants were so similar to Adidas’ design that the German company filed a lawsuit.

Adidas has since won twice against its US competitor in the Düsseldorf Regional Court: Nike had to remove five trouser models from the German market, and the court confirmed its decision after Nike objected. The Higher Regional Court (OLG) is now expected to make the final decision in the appeal proceedings.

How large is the protection area of ​​the strips?

For the court, it is a balancing act between protecting intellectual property and maintaining fair competition. Nike’s defense has so far argued, among other things, that not every design with stripes automatically falls within the scope of Adidas’ protection. The design is “very commonplace, simple and obvious,” and the number, width, gaps and color contrasts of Nike’s stripes are clearly different from those of Adidas. The company’s own Swoosh logo is also clearly recognizable.

According to Adidas lawyer Christian Rassmann, Nike’s stripe design is “a targeted attack” on Adidas. “Will my brand still work if a competitor starts bringing similar products onto the market in large quantities?” he asked during the oral hearing. Imitation by competitors not only poses the risk of confusion, but could also dilute the brand. The public assumes that the stripes are a reference to the manufacturer, Adidas said at the time.

The trigger for Adidas’ lawsuit was a test purchase in Nike’s online shop in 2022. The appeal proceedings before the Higher Regional Court began just over a month ago.

20 years ago Adidas won

Nike is the world’s largest sporting goods manufacturer with sales of around 48 billion euros in 2023. Adidas came in second place by a long way with sales of just over 21 billion euros. Both have already taken their famous logos to court – almost 20 years ago, even against each other. At the time, Adidas enforced that Nike was no longer allowed to sell pants models with a two-stripe label, as this violated trademark rights.

Adidas also won a legal dispute in 2018 when another competitor wanted to have shoes with two parallel horizontal stripes protected by the EU trademark office.

In 2019, however, the German manufacturer lost a case involving the so-called European Union trademark, in which the stripes run in any direction. A European Union court ruled that the logo was not distinctive enough to be protected under trademark law. The three stripes are therefore not protected under trademark law in every form.

Source: Stern

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