On February 7, I wrote about Adidas and their opposition to Tesla's trademark application for the Model 3 logo. You can read that article here: http://www.dfwpatentlaw.com/blog/2017/02/adidas-opposing-teslas-3-stripe-trademark-registration.shtml. I was not sold that Adidas would be able to prove customer confusion, but filing an opposition to Tesla's application was consistent with their history of aggressively protecting their three stripe trademark. Now, Adidas's actions may be coming back to bite them. On Monday, Law360 reported that Forever 21, Inc. filed suit against Adidas late last week in a California federal court for taking the enforcement of its three stripe trademark too far.
Among other things, Forever 21 alleged it received a letter from Adidas in February, in which Adidas threatened to sue the California-based clothing company for the use of its three stripe trademark on several items of clothing. This clothing included t-shirts with stripes on the lower part of the shirt and leggings with a striped pattern. Forever 21 claims that the items of clothing in question all feature more than three stripes and that the stripes are purely decorative, both of which they argue are significant enough to differentiate these items from clothing made by Adidas. Specifically, Forever 21's complaint states that Adidas is being a "bully" by trying to establish a monopoly on all striped clothing.
Both sides have reasonable arguments here. Because of how current trademark law is structured, companies must take action to protect their trademark. It benefits Adidas to err on the side of caution and take too much action to protect its trademark rather than not enough action. On the other hand, Forever 21 is correct that Adidas cannot prevent companies from selling clothes with stripes. Adidas would have a stronger argument if Forever 21's clothing items featured only three stripes. But as it stands, there is not enough there to warrant a court siding with Adidas in this case. They have pushed the envelope in the past, but this may have gone too far.