German sportswear company Adidas lost another trademark battle. According to a recent report, an EU court labeled its three-stripe design as “not distinct enough.” This comes after a long-running legal dispute between Adidas and Belgian sportswear company, Shoe Branding Europe.
Initially, Adidas trademarked its three parallel equidistant stripes on its clothing, hat and shoes. But in 2016, Shoe Branding Europe submitted a request to annul the trademark. Adidas ultimately lost the case. A European intellectual property lawyer says the company didn’t provide ample evidence that consumers identified Adidas’ brand logo. However, the company says the EU court’s ruling was limited and that the outcome of the case has no impact on the broad scope of its brand identity.
Reportedly, this is not the first time Adidas failed to protect its trademark. Back in 2003, it lost a legal dispute with Fitnessworld, a Dutch company with a similar two-stripe design. Adidas says it’s “disappointed” with the court’s ruling. However, the company says it’s still examining its implications.
Other well-known brands face challenges across the EU
The German sportswear company isn’t the only one facing brand challenges. In fact, Supermac, a fast-food chain based in Galway, Ireland, persuaded the EU Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to stop McDonald’s from using its Big Mac trademark, allowing Supermac to expand across the United Kingdom and other parts of mainland Europe.
Protecting brands overseas is challenging
As businesses grow, many may wish to expand their products or services across the globe. But Adidas’ battle with the EU goes to show how easily trademarks can get stripped away from companies. If companies like Adidas and McDonald’s can’t protect their brands overseas, you may be wondering how you will be able to protect your brand when going global. That is a valid concern.
According to IP Watchdog, the United States was ranked #1 in IP rankings overall, followed closely by the United Kingdom. The patent system came in second when ranked against other companies worldwide. So, although Adidas and McDonald’s lost cases to protect their branded products, overall, U.S. companies have been very successful in protecting their brands abroad.
The key take-away, perhaps, should be how distinct is your product? Will the brand hold up when challenged abroad, knowing some other, larger companies have been challenged and lost? Speak with an experienced intellectual property attorney to evaluate your branding strength and strategies.