Drawing the Line: Thom Browne Prevails in Parallel Stripe Case against Adidas

  • February 25, 2023
  • Alessia Monastero, associate and trademark agent at Bhole IP Law

On January 13, 2023, a final judgment was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in adidas America, Inc., et. al., v. Thom Browne, Inc., 1:21-cv-05615. The defendant, Thom Browne Inc. (Thom Browne), was found not liable for trademark infringement and trademark dilution as brought by the plaintiffs, adidas America Inc. and adidas AG (Adidas). Adidas has since filed a notice of appeal.

The Brands

Thom Browne is a luxury fashion brand having built its reputation in high-end, tailored pieces, since at least the early 2000s. Thom Browne often uses four, evenly-spaced white stripes on the left sleeve or leg of its articles of clothing, or a red, white, and blue parallel stripe design. Adidas, also having a worldwide presence in the clothing and footwear space, particularly in performance wear and sportswear, has also been known to use a three-stripe mark as an indicator of source to its consumers. Prior to Thom Browne’s current four-stripe branding, Thom Browne had also previously used three stripes on various clothing items, until the brand found itself subject to Adidas’ trademark policing efforts in 2007, at which point Thom Browne adopted its now-known four-stripe branding. Thom Browne’s four-stripe branding has since been used in the apparel market, as has Adidas’ three-stripe mark.

Adidas Opposes Thom Browne’s US Trademark Applications

On December 14, 2020, Adidas filed an opposition with the United States Patent and Trademarks Trial and Appeal Board against Thom Browne’s US trademark applications for a red, white, and blue parallel stripe for use on footwear. Adidas had opposed the following Thom Browne applications on the grounds of likelihood of confusion and dilution by blurring: