Adidas has lost a court case to try to stop a fashion designer from using a four-stripe design.
The sportswear giant argued that luxury brand Thom Browne Inc’s four stripes were too similar to its three stripes.
Browne argued that shoppers were unlikely to confuse the two brands as – among other reasons – his had a different number of stripes.
Adidas had planned to ask for more than $7.8m (£6.4m) in damages – but a jury in New York sided with Browne.
Browne’s designs often feature four horizontal, parallel stripes, encircling the arm of a garment or – as frequently seen on the creator himself – a sock.
Browne’s legal team portrayed him as the underdog taking on a huge corporation, and argued the two brands served different customers.
Sportswear does not dominate Thom Browne Inc’s creations and its output is aimed at wealthy customers – for example, a pair of women’s compression leggings cost £680, while a polo shirt goes for £270.
Browne’s lawyers also argued that stripes are a common design.
While Adidas launched legal action in 2021, the battle between the two companies dates back more than 15 years.
In 2007, Adidas complained that Thom Browne was using a three-stripe design on jackets. Browne agreed to stop using it and added a fourth stripe.
Since then Thom Browne Inc has expanded rapidly and is now sold in more than 300 locations worldwide, and in recent years has been creating more athletics wear.
The brand has a diverse fan base. It designed rapper Cardi B’s outfit for the 2019 Met Gala, while former professional footballer and Bournemouth manager Scott Parker sported one of its cardigans and a blazer to matches.
A spokesperson for Adidas said the company was disappointed but will “continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals”.
A spokesperson for Thom Browne Inc said the company was pleased with the outcome. Speaking to the Associated Press, the designer said he hoped the case would inspire others whose work is challenged by larger companies.
“It was important to fight and tell my story,” he said.
Documents used in the case showed that Adidas has launched more than 90 court battles and signed more than 200 settlement agreements since 2008 related to its trademark. (BBC)