Details of the case
On 27th of March, 2023, sportswear giant Adidas AG filed an opposition to Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc.'s trademark application for a logo with three yellow stripes. Trademark opposition is a legal process where one party challenges another party's attempt to register a trademark. Trademark opposition can be based on several grounds, including similarity to an existing trademark, likelihood of confusion, or genericness.
According to Yahoo News, in a notice of opposition submitted to the trademark office, Adidas said the proposed design "incorporates three stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to the Three-Stripe Mark in appearance and overall commercial impression". For that reason, consumers who are familiar with its goods and services "are likely to assume" that those offered under the applicant's mark "originate from the same source, or that they are affiliated, connected, or associated with or sponsored by Adidas".
However, shortly after, Adidas withdrew its request to the US authorities to reject a Black Lives Matter application for a trademark featuring three parallel stripes. Adidas has not provided a comment about the sudden decision to withdraw the opposition, but it was most likely due to the fact that the company was worried that the public could misinterpret Adidas' trademark objection as criticism of Black Lives Matter's mission.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is the most prominent entity in the decentralized Black Lives Matter movement, which arose a decade ago to protest police violence against Black people. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation applied for a federal trademark in July 2020, covering its yellow three-stripe design to use on a range of products including clothing, publications, bags, bracelets and mugs, while an August 2020 filing by Black Lives Matter Greater New York Inc included a design for a red, black and green ‘Black Lives Matter New York’ logo. Talking to WTR, the chairman of Black Lives Matter's Greater New York chapter, Hawk Newsome, said that with these applications they want to “ secure it so that people can't profit from it who haven't shed blood for this movement.”
Back in 2018, due to a surge in trademark applications for the name Black Lives Matter, the USPTO determined that “Black Lives Matter” belongs to the movement, not to an individual person or entity. No single individual or entity may exclude others from using these words. Any organization or individual may use “Black Lives Matter.” In other words, the phrase is available to everyone. Accordingly, the “Black Lives Matter” trademark exists in the public domain and cannot be used exclusively to sell goods and services by a single organization.
Adidas has filed more than 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements related to the three-stripe trademark since 2008, according to court documents from a lawsuit the company brought against designer Thom Browne’s fashion house. The company has a long-running history of trademark enforcement.
Adidas and trademark enforcement
Adidas is a well-known brand with a long history of trademark oppositions and enforcement and a reputation for being very protective of its intellectual property rights. The company has a strong commitment to protecting its intellectual property rights, and it is known for being particularly vigilant in enforcing its trademarks. The company has a large legal team dedicated to enforcing its trademarks and protecting its brand.
One of the most famous trademark cases involving Adidas is the Three Stripe trademark. Adidas has been using its Three Stripe design since the 1950s, and the company has aggressively defended this trademark over the years. Adidas has been involved in a number of legal battles with other companies that have used a similar design, and the company has been successful in many of these cases.
In addition to the Three Stripe trademark, Adidas has also been involved in other trademark disputes. For example, the company has opposed trademark applications by other companies that feature designs or slogans that are similar to Adidas' own trademarks. Adidas has also taken legal action against companies that have produced counterfeit goods or infringed on its trademarks in other ways. This commitment to intellectual property protection has helped Adidas maintain its position as one of the world's leading sportswear brands.